14 – Confrontations

Bailey was waiting on the porch, sitting upon the doorstep, her hands in her lap as her fingers absently worked a daisy chain. Her long pale blonde hair was pulled back into a pony tail. She wore khaki shorts and a gray shirt with red letters bearing LIFEGUARD. Dallas watched her lift her head at the sound of an approaching vehicle and on catching sight of his red Honda she stood up, a small smile on her face.


Dallas inhaled deeply, trying to get a control of his bearings as he turned the car off and opened the door to return her smile. Janie was hyperventilating beside him, afraid and worried that Bailey might be upset about her hanging around him. But suddenly he couldn't even remember she was there.

"Bail." He cocked his head towards the house. "Why didn't you go inside?"

"Oh," Bailey gestured with a small laugh. "No, I didn't want to bother your mom or anything. It's okay, Dallas, I was fine. Hi, Janie."

"Hello, hello!" Janie spoke a little too loudly and waved as she walked towards them. "I was just helping Dallas out when you called. How are you, Bailey? How's the debate team going? Remember when Sam versed Cooper? Oh that was great, wasn't it? Cooper is a great school. I liked it. But we kicked your ass. We did, we really—"

"Shut up, Janie." Dallas said without looking at her.

"Okay." Janie said quickly.

Bailey looked from him to Janie and back again, a quiet display of confusion crossing her beautiful features.

"We're not together." He blurted before flushing bright red, silently cursing himself.

"We're not!" Janie chimed in. "Oh God, no." she made a grossed out face to demonstrate.

Bailey blinked. "Okay…?"

"Okay!" Janie agreed enthusiastically. "Okay! I'm—I'm… uh, I'm just going to go sit over there." she scuttled away under Dallas's pointed, dark stare. She sat on the doorsteps, picking up the daisy chain Bailey dropped and tried to look engrossed.

Dallas looked back at Bailey, feeling his heartbeat quicken and feeling foolish for it. Why was he still so hung over her? Was it because she was his first, serious girlfriend? It was hard letting that first love go. And what if she wanted him back? What the hell was he supposed to do? He was scared at the thought that he might actually want her back, too.

"So…you uh, okay? How's everything?" he felt like a dork but Bailey looked relieved.

"Oh, I'm good! Did you know I got an acceptance letter from that university in Arizona?" Bailey asked.

"Are you going?" Dallas asked, his throat suddenly dry.

She shook her head. "I'm not sure. I want to, and I don't, you know?"


"What about you?"

"Me? UT Austin, I think." he said dismissively. "Or SMU."

They stood in awkward silence. Janie who had been watching them out of the corner of her eye bent to resume pulling out weeds which she had no interest in. Dallas wanted to say something but his voice was stuck, buried somewhere in his throat. He felt so stupid.

"Why I came here—" Bailey began.

"Yeah?" he said almost at once, relieved. "Yeah, what happened? Is something wrong? You sounded a little nervous on the phone."

Bailey hesitated. "Well, it's just that…I wanted to talk about Jordan and—" she suddenly stopped talking, going bright red. "I'm sorry, Dallas. I meant—there's something I thought you should know and—"

"Yeah." He spoke stiffly and suddenly couldn't look at her, letting his gaze turn to Janie who gawked at him behind Bailey's back, having overheard. He decided he couldn't look at her either. Janie was livid.

"It's not what you think." Bailey was saying, sounding pained. "Dallas? Please listen to me. This isn't about us."

"It's about Jordan?" he said, unable to help the sardonic tone.

She shook her head forcefully. "No! It's about Alex."

He raised his eyebrows. "From Jordan to Al? That's a pretty big leap."

"Jordan said something about her." Bailey said, ignoring him. "Come on, Dallas, stop it. I know you're mad at me, but this isn't about us. It's about Al. He didn't know I heard, but I did! And they were talking about Al. I think he might try to go and see her. I'm afraid… he might do something."

"What are you talking about?" he asked sharply even as a looming trepidation grew. No, not Al. Anybody but Al. But he had told her, hadn't he? He had warned her. Surely she wouldn't disregard what he had told her. He told her to walk the other way if Jordan approached her. He had hadn't he? Suddenly he couldn't remember.

Dallas grabbed Bailey. "What the hell did Jordan say, Bail?"

She cringed, gingerly shaking him off. "I don't know! I just overheard him talking to Ben and Nick. They didn't even mention Alex by name, but I could tell by the way they kept referring to her. Don't freak out, I think he just wants to talk to her. And I don't know why. I don't even know how he knows her. I just thought you should know—"

"No!" Dallas practically shouted as things suddenly made sense. "Don't you get it? He knows about me and Candace. Someone told him! Now he's going to try some stupid shit with Al—oh, Jesus Christ I'm so stupid!" he paced around the small area, cursing.

Janie was nodding vigorously, slapping her arms. "You're right! He knows! Can we go inside? There are mosquitoes biting me."

"Candace?" Bailey was saying, following him. "What the hell does this have to do with Candace? How do you know Candace? What do you mean you're with her?"

"Let's go inside," Dallas said distractedly. It was dusky out and the sky was red as the sun slowly disappeared. "I have to—I need to—"

"Think?" Janie offered helpfully.

"No." he stormed past her unsure of why he was so upset. Unlocking the front door with the two girls trailing hesitantly after him, he entered his house to find Tara standing in the front hall, looking at the odd group curiously.

"I was about to open the door—" she stopped, eyes widening incredulously. "Bailey? What are—what are you doing here? I thought… I thought you and Dallas… you know…"

Bailey blushed. "Hi, Tara."

"Hi Tara." Janie waved as she walked past and followed Dallas into the kitchen while Dallas's little sister held Bailey up. "What's wrong, Dallas? Talk to me, man. Talk to me, ol buddy, ol pal."

Dallas scowled at her.

"Who's Al?" she persisted.

Dallas didn't answer, handing her a coke instead. "A friend." He took a deep gulp from his own, feeling hopeless and not knowing what to do.

"Call her." Janie suggested. "Tell Al to stay away from Jordan. Tell her. Go on, call her. That'll help, I'm pretty sure. Or, get her to call us if he approaches, that way we can run in there and save her. We could stop anything before it happened. We could—"

"Al doesn't have a cell phone." He said shortly.

"She doesn't?" Janie eyes bugged in disbelief. "Who doesn't have a cell phone these days? Oh wow. Wowwowwowwow. How does she get around?"

Bailey entered the kitchen and he didn't bother to answer. "Look," she began in a reasonable tone. "The way I see it, we don't have much to worry about right now. I called you as soon as I could, Dallas. I'm sure you've got a few days at least. I really don't think Al's in any immediate danger or anything… come on."

"What happened to Al?" Tara wanted to know, coming up behind Bailey.

"Get lost," Dallas snapped, flipping open his cell phone as he speed dialed Al at home.

"What happened to Al?" Tara prodded Janie and Bailey, ignoring him. Dallas moved past the girls and headed out the kitchen, phone pressed against his ear. Almost automatically all three girls filed dutifully behind him. He tried not to cast a look of irritation over his shoulder.

Suddenly somebody banged on the front door, causing all of them to jump in start.

"Who the—" Dallas started to pull the phone away from his ear when the door flew open and Aaron fell inside.

"Oh good," he gasped, panting. "You're home."

He was bright red and sweating profusely under his shock of pale blonde hair, which sat matted across his forehead.

"What's wrong?" Dallas asked, not really shocked by this sudden appearance. Aaron did this often, but never in this condition. "What's wrong with you? Why are you so red?" he flipped his cell phone shut; no one was answering any way.

Aaron helplessly motioned for the coke in Dallas's hand and Dallas handed to him, all four of them watching him chug it down before he handed it back empty and wiped his mouth on his sleeve, his pants slower.

"I fucking ran all the way from home." Aaron wheezed. "And I had my car too! It's back from the mechanics in the garage and I forgot! I forgot my car was in the fucking garage! Can you believe that shit? How fucking stupid is that? God! Why am I so stupid?"

Janie giggled.

Bailey looked at Aaron in concern. "Well, it isn't that far is it? Just a couple of blocks away."

"You try running!" Aaron said nastily before doing a double take. "Bailey!"

"Yeah," she said wryly. "Hi, Aaron."

"Hi," he look unnerved but turned back to Dallas. "I wasn't going to tell you. I promised I wouldn't. But I was thinking about it all afternoon and—dude, I had to. I'm sorry, I know I'm the worse at keeping secrets and I just fucking suck and I hate doing this to Al—but you have to know."

"Al?" Dallas felt his stomach drop. "What happened? Is she okay?"

"I want to hear a secret!" Janie said keenly.

Aaron glanced at her, startled. "Who are you?"

"I'm Janie." She said happily.

"Aaron," Dallas snapped. His friend looked back guiltily. "What did Al say?"

"She didn't say anything. It's who she's going out with! That's what!" Aaron suddenly looked mad. "Did you know? Did you even bother to find out? What kind of friend are you? How could you just let her go off like that? Don't you know who he is!"

"It's Jordan!" Bailey cried, aghast. "She's going out with him, isn't she?"

Everyone looked at her.

"I thought you were going out with him," Dallas said, bewildered.

She went bright red and started mumbling. "I was—I mean, not really…no… I'm not anymore…"

Dallas just stared at her in complete disbelief. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Bailey, you…" he started weakly. You left our two year relationship to trade it for one that lasted not even two months? But he couldn't say. He wasn't sure of how he felt about things all of a sudden.

"That's not the point," Bailey said in a tremulous voice. "The point is; Al is going out with Jordan and we have to stop it because he's just messing with her. He's not serious about her."

"Something you should know a lot about," Aaron sneered.

She flushed.

"Leave her alone," Janie scolded.

Dallas didn't bother to say anything. He felt bad. Kinda. Besides, he wasn't really concerned about Bailey just then. Al was going out with Jordan?

"Where is she?" he demanded. "Did she go out tonight?"

"Yes." Aaron glared. "What if something happened? What—what if Mike tried something? You know Al is too-too-ugh, innocent and naïve and stupid for that. We have to stop them!"

"Mike?" Dallas said blankly.

"Mike?" Bailey echoed. "I thought you said…"

"Mike!" Janie exclaimed excitedly. "That's the name of my hot cousin who lives in Minnesota!"

"Al is going out with Mike!" Aaron shouted. "For god sake! You guy's are so fucking slow!"

They all stared at him for a stupefied second as the information sank in.

"Al is going out with Mikey?" Dallas said incredulously.

"Mike Cambridge?" Bailey was stunned. "Dallas's best friend?"

"Mike as in Jordan's newest fucking lapdog!" Aaron was furious. "I don't care who he is, he's still an effing scumbag! He's setting her up! I know it!"

"Is he hot?" Janie wanted to know.

Aaron whirled around to face her, flushing so deeply he looked as if he wanted to hit her.

"Just kidding." She said hastily. "I agree. Let's go save Al from Mike! Whoever he is…"

"You knew she was going out with someone!" Aaron suddenly accused Dallas, jabbing an angry finger in his direction.

"Yeah, but—" Dallas suddenly felt so stupid and useless. "I never thought—"

"You should have asked." Aaron spat. "You should have at least asked her who she was going out with. You know Al! She's not re—she's not—" he quickly finished his sentence with; "I'm gonna kill Mike!"

"Wait a minute, guys." Tara suddenly spoke up. "You guys are going crazy about all these weird shit you think Mike's gonna pull. But I'm sorry. It just doesn't sound like Mike. He's not that dumb or stupid."

"How would you know?" Aaron scowled.

"Excuse me, but I only happen to have known him since I was 9—yes, maybe not as closely as Dallas does. But I still think I'm entitled to an opinion. It doesn't sound like Mike. Mike isn't a bad guy, despite your stupid falling out or whatever. It just doesn't seem like him. That's all." She shrugged and left, heading for the living room where they all slowly followed.

Dallas sank beside Janie on the loveseat and dropped his head into his hands. "This is so fucked."

The doorbell rang.

None of them bothered to get up. Tara sighed before getting up and disappearing back out the living room to answer the door.

"I can't believe this," Dallas muttered, rubbing his eyes. "This shit sucks. Damn."

"How did it even start?" Aaron asked, really wondering. "I don't remember, man. I really don't."

There was a reflective silence before both of them suddenly cast glances Bailey's way simultaneously. She didn't notice, which was just as well, Dallas supposed.

"Tara, who is it—?" Dallas began to call when his sister walked back into the living room followed by none other than Al.

"Al!" they all nearly shouted in unison, jumping to their feet. Janie quickly followed suit. "Al!"

"Hi, guys." She said, looking bemused at the sight of them oddly grouped together, and Dallas had to admit what with his little sister and ex-girlfriend being there, they did look pretty strange. "Wow, I didn't know everyone would be here. Hi, Bailey."

"Alex!" Bailey was first to rush and hug her. The others just crowded around in relief.

Al stood there slack, taken aback.

"Are you okay?" she asked Bailey curiously.

"Of course," Bailey squeezed her. "We all thought you were in trouble because Aaron said all this crazy stuff and—"

Al looked at Aaron and saw that he was pink with embarrassment before she quickly looked away.

"Al," Dallas said every tenor in his voice weak with relief. He reached out and ruffled her on the head which she allowed for only a couple of seconds before ducking out from under his hand and flashing a quick grin.

"Al!" Janie cried, grabbing her. "You don't know me, but I'm so glad you're okay. Because when we thought you weren't, Dallas was a complete jerk. But now that we know you're okay, he's okay again."

"I was not a jerk." Dallas said, but not really caring. He was just so glad to see Al. "How'd you get here?" he directed the question to Al as they all sank back into their seats, Al leaning against Bailey's recliner.


A reply which evoked cries of bewilderment and outrage.

"He was here?" Aaron demanded, jumping to his feet outraged.

"He's left by now," Al said reasonably. "Don't worry. He thinks it's my house, Dallas. He doesn't know it's actually yours." It wasn't exactly reassuring.

"I thought you were dating Mike." Bailey said weakly.

Al frowned. "I was." She cast Dallas a guilty look. "I was going to tell you, I promise. I just… didn't know. I wasn't sure…"

"What happened today?" Bailey asked. "Why did Jordan drop you off if you were with Mike?"

So Al told them in a way only she could tell it; as if everything was just dandy and that Jordan was her best friend when he offered her a ride home instead of dumping and closing her in his car and that everyone got along just fine. They all sat listening with vague disbelief.

"And then he turned on some rap music and asked me if I liked rap, and I think I told him no. Did I tell him no? I'm not sure, I can't remember. I might've said nothing. But I'm pretty sure I said no. I would have, wouldn't I?"

"What happened to Mike?" Bailey asked bluntly.

"Oh him?" Al frowned. "I'm not sure. I think he's still there with his friend at the gas station. What was his name? I don't know. Billy or something. Billy works for his father at a gas station, but he really wants to work at Hooters." She explained sadly.

They stared as Janie clapped. "That's wonderful!"

Aaron shifted his weight, staring at the ground stonily, not saying anything. Dallas wondered what was up with him. He was acting weird.

Al's smile faded. "Jordan kept asking me weird questions, Dallas." She looked at him curiously. "About you and Candace."

Bailey and Janie looked at him, each for different reasons.

But Dallas looked back at Janie and raised his eyebrows. "I guess this proves you're right."

Janie cracked a grin. "I guess it does." She said smugly.

"What?" Aaron finally asked. "What's right?"

"Jordan and Candace are in love with each other." Dallas said matter-of-factly.

Bailey's mouth dropped. "You're lying."

"So?" Aaron said, shrugging. "Good for them."

"They're cousins." Dallas said.

Aaron's face blanched. "Oh dude, that is so fucking sick!"

"I have a hot cousin." Janie offered loudly.

"I don't." Aaron scoffed. "All my cousins are fat lesbians."

"You think everyone's a lesbian." Al mumbled.

Aaron looked at her and opened his mouth as if to say something nasty, Dallas could see it and he narrowed his eyes as he always did in Al's defense, but to his surprise Aaron just pursed his lips and made a face, muttering. "Whatever."

"Candace and Jordan can't be in love with each other." Bailey was saying weakly, still in denial. "They're cousins. I've hung out with her."

"Was she nice?" Janie asked sweetly.

"Well… no—"

"Okay, then." Janie nodded as if it explained all. "She wasn't nice to you because she didn't like you and hated the fact that Jordan did."

"I don't think—" Bailey began, annoyed.

"She was bitchy, wasn't she?" Janie asked keenly.

"You're just—well—"Bailey sighed grudgingly. "Yes. But that doesn't mean anything!"

"So what does it mean?" Janie challenged.

"Shut up, Janie." Dallas said, frankly annoyed with the whole line of conversation. Who cared if who was a bitch to whom? None of it mattered.

"Yeah, shut up, Janie." Aaron gave her an extremely dirty look. "Whoever the hell you are."

"Shut the fuck up, Aaron." Dallas snapped, growing increasingly irritated. "Just shut your mouth, okay?"

"You shut the fuck up." Aaron said predictably.

"Where's your friend?" Al spoke up before Dallas could reply.

"Mike isn't our friend." Aaron told her brusquely. "Just because he's your boyfriend, Al, doesn't make him our friend."

"He isn't her boyfriend." Janie and Bailey said in unison.

"Not him," Al said impatiently, unperturbed. "Your other friend."

"Who?" Dallas asked, unsure.

"They don't have any other friends." Janie cracked.

"Maybe—?" Aaron began.

"Christopher." Tara finally said to most of their surprise.

Al gave one short, loud clap. "Him!" she gave Dallas's little sister a deep appreciative look. "That's right. That kid you introduced me to once, remember?"

Aaron frowned. "What does Chris have to do with any of this shit?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. Jordan said something about him, but maybe it was nothing, y'know? Probably just something I thought meant something. It was weird. He made Christopher sound bad but Christopher doesn't seem bad to me. I've met him before, haven't I? He seemed okay to me."

Bailey was shaking her head and Janie had a funny look on her face.

"No, wait." Dallas said slowly. "What did he say?"

"I don't know, but it was really weird." Al shrugged again uncertainly. "He asked me what was going on, and I told him I didn't know. I said maybe Aaron or Christopher would know, but not me."

"And then?"

Al scratched her arm. "And then Jordan made this face and said Christopher didn't know anything. But what does he know, y'know? Jordan doesn't even know Christopher, right?"

The funny thing was, whenever they weren't really thinking about Christopher, he was always there anyway. But suddenly when Dallas and Aaron was looking for him, the kid was no where to be found. Dallas couldn't even think of places to look because he didn't know where Christopher hung out. They couldn't ask anyone either because according to Christopher, he pretty much didn't have any friends. Besides Jordan, maybe.

"I knew it." Aaron said ranting. "I told you there was something wrong with that kid!"

"You never said anything." Dallas said.

"Come on. There was just something so fucking suspicious about him! I have no friends? What kind of bullshit is that? Who doesn't have friends! Who?"

Dallas gave him a dirty look. "You'd be surprised." Aaron scoffed.

"Everyone has friends. He's just a bad liar. I told you he was a bad liar!" he exploded. "See? See? This guy fucked us over! He's doing something! He's conspiring against us! He—he—he's a fuckin double agent!" Aaron looked so wounded and Dallas realized that Aaron had actually really liked the kid despite their little spats.

"He knew a lot about Candace." Dallas mused, frowning. "When he said he didn't even know her, remember?"

"Yeah!" Aaron said eagerly, abandoning his affection for Christopher. "That little fucker knew where she worked, he knew what time, he knew who her ex-boyfriend is. And oh, I don't know Candace but I've heard of her. What a liar. What a goddamn liar. Oh shit, remember how he was like, I have my contacts." He scoffed again noisily. "Contacts my ass. Does he think we're stupid? Did he think we would fall for that?"

Dallas tried to restrain his annoyance. "We did for a few months."

"I didn't." Aaron said disdainfully.

"Don't even-" Dallas shook his head. "We fell for it, God, just admit it. He might not even be telling stories to Jordan, you know." he said this maybe as a comfort for himself but even as he said it he knew it was a lie. Now that he thought about it everything seemed pretty obvious. How fucking complex was this stupid thing anyway? It started out as something small, him losing his girlfriend, something normal. And now all of a sudden they were paranoid about spies. Goddamn-fucking-spies.

"Who doesn't have friends?" he found himself muttering, unable to help himself.

"Do you think he knows?" Aaron asked abruptly as they reached the set of stairs at the end of the second floor leading back to the first floor and one up the third.

"What?" Dallas asked, distracted as he made his way up. He suddenly had to piss and there was a restroom right around the corner on the third floor and he didn't feel like walking down the length of the second floor to find the other restroom. Aaron trailed after him, moving around a couple of pretty girls to follow and for the first time didnt even seem to notice them.

"Do you think he knows?" Aaron repeated. "Christopher, I mean."

Dallas glanced over his shoulder at his friend. "Know that we know about him?"


"I dunno." he felt resigned, vaguely annoyed. "Does it even matter anymore?"

"Why can't we find him then?" Aaron demanded, hurrying to catch up. "And where the fuck are we going? We're wasting our effin lunch time."

Dallas gave him a half-smirk. "I have to pee."

He gave a quick smile to a cute girl who had just come out of the girl's bathroom and they nearly collided, both moving out of the way just in time. She grinned sheepishly and walked off. Dallas glanced back at Aaron to see if he was looking at her and used his back to push the bathroom open. Aaron was looking disgruntled, again, surprisingly not even looking at the girl.

"Don't worry, we'll look for him after this." he assured his friend, turning to head into the bathroom.

And there was Christopher.

Long and skinny, he was leaning against the sinks, a cellphone against his ear, running his finger across graffiti littering the walls as he spoke. His hair mussed to perfection, uneven black strands hanging across his eyes. He wore the same green Clash shirt he had first worn when they met him under a white hoodie. His green eyes registered brief surprise at the sight of them.

Even Dallas could tell that Christopher was good-looking enough for the opposite sex. No way, there was no way he had no friends.

"Looking at yourself in the mirror again?" it just came out and Dallas was surprised by how easy and normal he sounded, unaffected by anything negative. He didn't even seem to feel angry. But Dallas could hear Aaron choking on his fury behind him.

Christopher grinned, raising his arms in mock surrender. "Got me. Hey, call you back man." he flipped his phone closed, sliding in into his jacket. "Where you guys been? And what the hell ever happened to that girl who called? Did you meet her? What'd she say? Who was she? What happened? I mean how was it?"

Dallas had made his way over to the urinals and was unzipping, abandoning Aaron who suddenly looked unsure. Angry still, but unsure of how to bring his accusations forward because Christopher and Dallas were acting so normal.

"It was okay." Dallas said, again surprised by how much he didn't really care that Christopher was a two-faced fuckhead.

Christopher was still smiling, unsure himself now. There was a breif silence.

"She hot?" he finally asked, folding his arms.

Dallas shrugged, finishing up his business. "Okay."

Another silence.

Christopher was starting to look uncomfortable. He glanced from Dallas to Aaron. "What's wrong with you guys?"

Aaron went pink with anger. "Like you don't know." he spat.

Dallas looked at his friend sympathetically; he sounded like a girl who knew her boyfriend was cheating on her and finally broke the news to him. Aaron must have really liked Christopher. Dallas zipped his jeans and headed for the sink, staring at his reflection as he washed and soaped his hands. He decided to help Aaron out.

"We know about you, Chris." he told the kid without taking his eyes off himself. He briefly wondered who was better looking, him or Christopher. He looked at pale skinned, white haired Aaron in the mirror.

Or Aaron.

Christopher took a step back. "What the heck are you guys talking about?" a small, uncertain smile gracing his features.

Aaron emitted a soft cry of disgust. "You are something, kid. You really are. Did you really think we wouldnt find out?" he was so mad he went red.

"What are you talking about?" Christopher repeated, staring at the both of them.

Dallas finally looked at him in the mirror and Christopher sounded genuine enough, but the small nervous flick in his gaze gave him away. Dallas didnt turn away from the mirror. He stared at himself, rubbing the back of his neck. He decided they were good-looking in different ways. Christopher in the grunge, dirty, just-rolled-out-of-bed-look-at-me way and him in some stupid Calvin Kline-esque way.

Dallas rubbed his eyes and looked again to find himself staring back in a relaxed, careless way. He realized then he didn't care much about whatever happened now.

But Christopher and Aaron were having it out.

"You can't just fucking accuse me of-"

"Like fuck I can't! You're a goddamn liar, Christopher. We know what you're doing, allright asshole?"

Dallas turned off the water. "Shut the fuck up. Both of you." he turned to look at them. Christopher was flushed, looking angry and very nervous. Aaron seeing this looked on in quiet triumph.

"You don't know anything." Christopher spat, unable to keep his mouth shut, emotions on edge.

"Actually, we do." Dallas said indifferently. "Jordan ratted you out."

A small lie, but who cared.

Christopher's mouth fell open in surprise and he stared at Dallas, disbelief written across his eyes. "I don't believe you." he declared, swallowing. His adam's apple bobbed against his slender throat.

Dallas raised an eyebrow like he didn't care. "You should."

Christopher stared at him, torn between holding up his denies and caving in. His eyes darted over to Aaron who stood behind Dallas, gaze hot and angry.

"Fuck." Chris's shoulders slumped. "Fuck shit stupidass fucking hell." he slapped the tiled wall beside him before rubbing his bright red palm against his thigh. No one said anything. For a second Christopher just stood there, head hanging. Again Dallas found himself feeling no pity and no particular offense. He turned away.

"It was never really anything." Christopher said as Dallas turned away, his voice resigned. "I swear, man."

Dallas stared at Aaron through the mirror and Aaron stared back, eyebrows slightly raised. A small grin quirked the corner of Dallas's mouth as he wondered why they weren't saying anything to Christopher. Aaron's flushed complexion faded, finally agreeing that it wasn't worth it to get so worked up.

"It was just a dumb joke at first." Christopher said dully. "Kind of just for fun. Not really anything bad. Jordan thought it would be funny. I wouldn't have done anything serious to you guys."

"How come you told us about Candace?" Dallas asked, vaguely curious.

Christopher looked taken aback. "Huh?"

"You told us about Candace," Dallas repeated. "You're the reason why we bothered her in the first place. Jordan obviously doesn't want us around her at all so I don't understand how the two of you were in on the whole thing together."

"We weren't." Christopher said bluntly. "It was after. He kinda saw us hanging out and thought we could-" he stopped, briefly reddening. "-and I'm stupid, all right? I told you about Jordan. Everyone wants to be his friend. And when he came up to me... yeah, okay, I was pretty flattered. Thought maybe we could be friends, thought maybe I could score where everyone else pretty much fucked. But all that's just pretty screwed, huh?"

"You said you hated him." Aaron was disgusted. "And now you're telling us you secretly wanted to be his best friend?"

"No!" Christopher looked frustrated. "Look, you're right, doing that was shitty of me. But I swear, the only thing I ever told him was about that girl who called you. That's it. You gotta believe me, Dallas. That's only as far as it went. It's not like I've been doing this behind your back the whole time, because I haven't." he stared hard at Dallas. "I haven't."

"Okay." Dallas shrugged.

Christopher stared at him apprehensively.

"So, what are your plans now?" Dallas asked.

"Huh?" Christopher looked taken aback.

"You gonna go run to Jordan and tell him all of this as soon as we leave, or what?" he made sure his voice was vaguely indifferent but truthfully, Dallas wanted to know, wondering what would happen when Christopher did and maybe if he could turn this all into his advantage somehow.

"No-of course not!" Christopher sputtered indignantly. "I'll tell him I'm done with this shit."

Aaron scoffed. "Like you have the balls for that."

"I will!" the younger boy insisted, coloring.

"Whatever." Aaron looked away, uninterested.

"I WILL!" Christopher shouted, angry, upset and confused. Dallas read it all on his face. "You fucking dickhead, just fucking watch-I swear, I'll fucking do it!"

He could feel Christopher teetering nervously on the edge of a breakdown. He felt a brief stab of pity.

Aaron glared at him.

"Where are your friends?" Dallas asked curiously, really wanting to know.

"I told you-I don't have any!" Christopher exploded. "What, you guys think I'm lying about that too? You want the truth? Fine. I used to live in Minnesota until about a year ago when I came to live with my Aunt and Uncle. I don't know my dad. My mom killed herself when I was 11 so after bouncing from foster home to foster home like some unwanted fucking sickbag, my family finally asks me to move down with them in fucking stupidass Texas-"

"You leave Texas out of this!" Aaron snapped, and this time it was Dallas who glared at him.

"-and now here I am. I'm living in town where for a few months my only friend was my fucking whackass cousin. And since I'm not exactly amazing, I had no friends. None. Except for a bunch of stupid girls who only wanted to go out with me." he gave a bitter laugh which surprised Dallas because he was scoffing at something that wasn't usually scoffed at, and because of how irrelevant it was to the subject. "I've got a high-strung cousin as my only friend so after a few months I was starting to feel a little desperate. Which is the only reason I bugged you guys after that asshole grabbed me in the hallway. It's because I'm fucking pathetic and have no friends, all right? Happy? Is that what you wanted to hear?"

It was awkward.

"You could have just hung out with us, either way." Dallas offered lamely, suddenly feeling guilty as hell.

Christopher averted his gaze, muttering. "Whatever."

They stood silent. Dallas mentally running through what Christopher had just told them when Aaron suddenly came to life.

"Dude!" he blurted, looking at Christopher. "You weren't lying!"

They looked at him.

"About your parents!" he went on. "You really don't have any! And i thought you were lying!" Aaron was so fucking tackless. He didnt even have the decency to sound a little sympathetic. He was too amazed that Christopher wasn't a liar. Dallas wanted to hit him.

Christopher stared at him coldly.

"I mean-you weren't lying!" Aaron continued on joyously, unaware. "You really do live with your aunt and uncle!" his excited expression slowly faded. "But... then why did you lie again? When I told you to tell Dallas you had parents. You said you did..."

Christopher shrugged. "Everyone has parents. Mine are just gone."

"Who's your cousin?" Dallas asked abruptly. "How come you never introduced us?"

Christopher looked troubled. "She goes to a different school."

Aaron and Dallas exchanged glances.

"She does!" Christopher snapped.

"You live in the same house but go to different schools?" Aaron asked doubtfully.

"Look, I don't know why she doesn't come here." Christopher said heatedly. "This is our district. But she goes to some other high school. Ask her parents why because I don't have a clue."

Something else was bothering Dallas.

"If you just moved here, like you said," he said slowly. "How come you knew so much about Candace and Jordan?"

Christopher looked away. "My uh... my cousin told me."

"Really?" Again Dallas and Aaron looked at each other, deeply skeptical.

Christopher's eyes darkened. "Yes, my cousin. She's a fuckin' gossip hag. Her business involves everyone's business."

Dallas found that he suddenly felt like laughing, not entirely sure why. Aaron however, didn't even smile.

"That proves nothing." he said dismissively.

"He's right." Dallas said, a small smile curling his mouth. "Pretty lucky how you managed to land in the middle of all of this, don't you think?"

"I'm a lucky guy." Christopher exhaled noisily. "My god, Dallas. It was nothing! Nothing at all! I swear to Jesus! I just had nothing better to do and yeah, I got a kick out of all of this crazy shit. It was fun, all right? It took my mind off things. We were fucking stalking someone like effing losers. And-and yeah, when I first heard of Jordan I... I thought he was cool." Christopher was going pink. "I lied. Well not really, he did scare me a little. And I never meant to go double agent on your ass. I swear! But when he approached me...

It was nothing-nothing at all." Christopher ran a hand through his hair, shrugging half-heartedly. "Yeah, so..."

Dallas pondered this. It didn't make sense.

He really, truly liked Christopher and all. Hey, he was a great kid. And Dallas really wanted to believe the kid. Really, he did.

But it just didn't add up.

"How come you didn't recognize her number, then?"

Aaron looked at Dallas fleetingly, unsure.

Christopher blinked. "Huh?" he said, confused.

"When Janie called me at the party," Dallas said patiently. "How come you didn't recognize your own cousin's cell phone number?"

There was a brief second of stupified silence before pandemonium broke out.

"What the f-!" Aaron screeched.

"Janie is the one who called you!?" Christopher exploded, horrified and stunned at the same time.

"JANIE IS HIS FUCKING COUSIN?!" Aaron shrieked, outraged.

"My cousin called you?" Christopher was saying weakly, dumbfounded.

"WHY THE FUCK IS EVERYONE RELATED?!" Aaron screeched. "Holy fucking SHIT!"

Dallas crossed his legs, leaning against the stalls as he waited for their reactions to blow over.

It had been so obvious.

He had put two and two together as he listened to Christopher's longass explanation. And it was a perfect explanation too. All the pieces fell together neatly, albeit a little too neatly. In fact Dallas was ready to believe him. If only Christopher could explain. The fact that he and Janie went to different schools was suspicious enough, but how could he have NOT recognized his own cousins number? His little best friend for a few months.

Dallas waited until Aaron had finally subsided in emitting multiple kinds of noises before prodding Christopher.


Christopher was shaking his head, mouth open, wordless. "I-I don't know." he looked bewildered.

Dallas was disappointed. He sighed. "Chris, you gotta do better than-"

"You never showed us." Aaron suddenly spoke up out of no where coming to Christopher's defense.

Dallas looked at him, taken back.

"You never showed it to us." Aaron repeated. "Her number, I mean."

"What? No way, of course I did." Dallas said impatiently.

"No." Aaron shook his head firmly. "I remember. You never showed us the number. You only told us the area code. I remember it. 682."

Dallas stared at him for a minute before it slowly dawned upon him. "Hey... you're right." he said, mildly sheepish. He looked from Christopher to Aaron and started laughing. They both looked perplexed. "You're fucking right, dude. Damn, holy crap. This is unbelievable..."

Aaron folded his arms and looked away, face slipping back to a sulk.

There was another awkward silence.

"For god's sake, you guys." Dallas said, grinning. "Games up. You're okay, kid." he told Christopher who not surprisingly didn't look the least comforted by this. He gave Dallas a deeply disgruntled look but said nothing. Aaron looked pointedly at everything but Christopher's face. Dallas was about to burst out in annoyance when suddenly a stall door pulled open and a guy came out, looking at them.

All three of them gawked, mildly horrified.

"You guys got like some major drama going on in your lives, man." Mark said loftily siddling past Dallas to head for the sinks. A smirk played across his lips, a look of deep satisfaction etched across his face. "My God..." he shook his head, chuckling as he delicately washed his hands, working the soap suds into a frenzy before washing it off.

There was a certain sense of embarrassment at finding out that someone had overhead their stupid little squabble, but to have Mark listening was probably only ten times worse. Dallas hoped to God his face wasn't as red and blotchy as Aaron's. Christopher didn't look particularly disturb, merely giving Mark a deep look of loathe, but Dallas could feel his own face growing warm.

Mark was eyeing himself critically in the mirror, running a hand through his cleanly cut hair. He caught Dallas's eye in the mirror and grinned. "Hi, Dallas." he said smirking. "Haven't got your girlfriend back, have you?"

"Fuck you."

"Guess not." Mark slid his gaze from Dallas to Aaron to Christopher, his smirk widening. "You guys are unbelievable. And to think that I'd get so much entertainment by just taking a dookie."

Aaron's jaw was clenched so tightly Dallas thought he looked ready to knock Mark over, but at the moment it didn't really matter because there were two other people in the bathroom probably thinking the exact same thing. And Mark just stood there smiling stupidly, as if he was the most almighty person in the world.

"Look at you guys, fighting like girls in the mother fucking bathroom." Mark chuckled. "Too much drama in your lives, kids. Honestly." he smoothed his hair back casually, smirking widely. "Well, some of us men have to eat and have no time for gossip, like you three." and with that he turned and headed for the bathroom door, nearly waltzing out, too smug to merely walk. He pushed hard into Christopher who stood near the door on his way past.

"Faggot!" Aaron called after him.

Mark gave him the finger without even bothering to turn around.

The door closed with a soft thud and they were cast once again into silence. But this time, they were all too embarrassed to look at each other. The silence grew louder, and they could hear the school's movement outside the bathroom, a soft buzz in their ears.

Christopher shifted his weight.

"So um, I think we should go eat." he said, not exactly looking at Dallas or Aaron.

"Yeah," Aaron and Dallas said together, relieved.

They trooped out the bathroom and nearly drew in a collective breath of relief as they fell upon the rest of the student body. Things felt a lot less strained out in the open for some odd reason.

"Mark is an idiot." Aaron mumbled.

"Forget him." Christopher said indifferently. "He's an idiot."

"That's what I said." Aaron said, annoyed.

"Yeah, well." Christopher shrugged. "You're right."

"Well, just because-!" Aaron started angrily but stopped. "Huh? Oh..."

Christopher rolled his eyes. "Yeah, 'oh'."

Dallas grinned before shaking his head. "I can't wait for this shit to be over." he muttered.

"Yeah." Christopher agreed under his breath. "It's a pain in the ass."

"I think..." Dallas said slowly. "We're going to have to quit fucking around and just be upfront about it."

Christopher looked at him. "Jordan?"

"Yeah." Dallas sighed. "I'm tired of this shit."

"Do what you have to do." Christopher muttered.

Aaron kept silent.

Her number was programmed into his phone. He had remembered saving it after hanging up that night she had called unexpectedly. Dallas scanned down the list. He had saved it under the letter C as her mobile phone, or what he hoped was her cell number. Because if it wasn't, he was fucked out of ideas. Dallas's fingers moved across the keyband to hit the 'TALK' button. He watched it connect and the numbers begin to count down the length of his call before placing it to his ear.

It rang in his ear once, twice and was cut at the third.

"What do you want?" Candace's voice wasn't cold as much as it was annoyed.

Dallas was breifly surprised.

"I want to see you." he finally said, eyes scanning the parking lot feeling oddly unsettled as if he really was expecting Jordan to come roaring out of nowhere. Dallas cursed himself.

"You left me." Candace said, now pouting, confusing him. "You just ditched me and you think I'm gonna come running to you now?"

"I-what?" Dallas racked through his memory before remembering the party only four days ago. It felt like a month. "Oh yeah, I'm sorry. There... there was an emergency... Can we meet at Starbucks, please? The one on Matlock or Green Oaks, you pick."

"I'm closer to Green Oaks, I guess." Candace said, sounding as if this was a huge favor before she continued to pout. "And I'm not sure. You did leave me. You're not even saying sorry. Well, fine, you did. But it doesn't even seem like you mean it. Why should I come when you're not sorry? I shouldn't come meet you at all, just to make a point. You had me thinking that you ran off to meet some other girl or something, you know?"

Dallas suddenly found himself growing increasingly annoyed.

"Cut the shit, Candace." he said quietly.

Silence met his ears.

"You know why I want to see you." Dallas stared straight ahead, listening carefully to her.

"I guess I better hurry then." Her voice was now unmistakably cold.

She hung up.

Ten minutes later Candace had apparantly reached the coffee shop before him because as Dallas pulled in he saw her sitting stiffly at one of the tables on the porch. Her eyes assessed him coolly as he walked up to her.

"Thanks." he said, sliding into the seat beside her after shooting a dirty look to the party at the next table who had basically stolen the chair that had been facing directly across Candace.

Dallas looked at Candace. "You want to order anything?"

Her lip curled. "Get to the point."

Dallas frowned. "Fine. Here's the point," he looked at her. "You and Jordan... I want you guys to quit it."

Candace looked at him and smiled. "What makes you think I have anything to do with this?"

"Please, you have everything to do with this." he said disgustedly. "You like Jordan, correct?" her face gave away nothing. "And Jordan likes you," Dallas continued, trying not to feel grossed out. "But for some reason, neither of you are doing anything about it." Because it's wrong, he thought at the back of his head.

Candace smirked. "Not true."

"And instead," Dallas said, as if he hadn't heard and actually wished he hadn't. "the two of you play some freakishly weird game, which consists of you two trying to get each other jealous by using other people. And you probably don't even care about the number of hearts your break and relationships destroy while you're at it."

Candace was smiling now. "You mean like your little girlfriend Bailey?" she asked sweetly.

Dallas gave her a cold look. "He used Bailey, you used me."

"And Nick!" she reminded him with icy satisfaction. Her smug look deflated.

"But you don't know half of it!" Candace pouted, whining. "You don't know half the girls he pulled on me! It was awful. Each girl made me want to scream. And then finally this pretty little miss Bailey came along. God, I wanted to kill her. And he knew it, too. He knew it." Candace said, eyes bright and feverish.

Dallas looked at her, trying to pretend to understand. She gave a look of deep loathe before swallowing. She ran a hand through her hair to compose herself. "And anyway, it's not like it was any of my business." She said, sounding forcefully careless. "What do I care that Jordan stole your stupid girlfriend? All I know is that your stupid girlfriend stole him from me." Candace's eyes narrowed. "Stop trying to accuse me. I'm the victim here." she looked like a resentful, spoiled child.

Dallas gritted his teeth, trying to see this as any other situation and trying not to remember that they were cousins. But it was hard. "No offense, Candace. But you guys are cousins."

"Save it." Candace looked bored. "If you think I haven't heard this before, you're wrong."

"You don't think you might be wrong here?" he asked her.

Candace smiled thinly. "I'm not."

He shook his head, he couldnt believe he ever thought she sweet or cute.

"Dont." she snapped. "Don't pretend you're all righteous when you aren't. You know you came into that Bar & Grill that one night looking to do the same thing to Jordan what he did to you, so shut it. You think I'm stupid? I know you came looking for me. Let's butter Jordan's little cousin up because he stole my girlfriend and I'm a stupid ass petty fuck!"

Dallas tried vainly to look disinterested. "You don't have the right to use the word 'petty'."

Candace laughed, tossing her black hair over her shoulder. "You don't have the right to come here and accuse me of ruining your stupid life! You think you have it all figured out. You don't." She looked at him haughtily, right hand twirling a long strand of black hair around her index finger. Dallas tried not to roll his eyes and averted his gave instead. Almost at once she reached out and took his face in her hand, forcefully turning his face back towards her. Dallas looked at her, taken aback.

"You want this to stop?" she suddenly ask softly.

He wanted to take her hand away from his face but made himself sit there and look back at her. He didn't say anything, wanting to give consent and yet not wanting to give in at all for some reason.

"Do you?" Candace demanded, shaking him slightly.

"Yeah." Dallas tried not to wince as her nails dug in. He finally reached up and pulled her hand away, not wanting to look at her. "Yeah, I do, all right? I want all of this to stop."

Candace smiled. It wasn't a very nice smile.

"Well I know how to make it stop." she announced, settling back again as if nothing happened. "But if you want my help, you're going to have to listen to me. You have to do what I tell you to do."

He said nothing, suddenly wary.

"Do you want Jordan to quit bugging you and your friends or not?" she snapped, her patience run up. "Quit being all moody and quiet, you son of a bitch. Are you going to listen to me or not? Don't you want Jordan to leave you alone? Don't you?"

Dallas finally looked at her. "All right. Fine. What do you want me to do?" he said, irritated.

Candace smiled at him sweetly.

Sliding her hand behind his head, she pulled him closer and kissed him.

A/N: i love you guys, & im tired of making excuses. so here it is; i'm so busy these days and the inclination to write just isn't very strong. im going to finish this story of course, seeing as it's almost over. but i just wanted you guys to know what the hell was going on. it might take a while to get to, but just try your best to bear with me. i really truly do love ever review i get, & yes, i do read them all despite the time i take getting around to update.

ugh, im sorry & pleaseplease excuse typos or any missing apostrophes or commas. i'm using wordpad because my word document isn't working for some reason. no automatic spell check. egad, the horror. i know. im a fraud ):

La-mocha : daretobe-dIfErEnT : Typesour : Zephyr-wings : Silvia : OneGirlAlone : Ewen Lythrum : tearitrightup : elephant121 : Lil : Portrait Of A Daybreak : inkling : dramaqueen89 : being myself : Hopeless Romance : Emoting-again : Yet-Another-Evil-Pancake : Tabitha the Great : vintagehulahoops : ..YoXx : elephant121 : purecrystaltears : OneGirlAlone : RedBerries : The Beautiful Mistress : tha : arohalove : DaGrimReaperess : WhamBamThankYouMam : : Julez : Sitting Squanto : Fairytale Gurl : Trmpetplaya1 : AngelofSatan : Mellowdy : Typesour : la-mocha : SOMEONE WITH A BLANK USERNAME : jekodama : swimchickslam : serako

Zephyr-wings: omg, nukkaa I loved all of your reviews! ahah, they were so sweet & entertaining. thanks,

Silvia: You lolled out loud? Lmao. Dude, that's awesome. :D Are you silvia from myspace, by any chance?

daretobe-dIfErEnT: omfg, lmfao. I love you, man. Wafa, you turdd you nailed it. :D ahaha.

tearitrightup: ugh, actually, that's what i was going for in this chapter. i was thinking maybe shorter chapters meant i'd update faster, but i tried and no ): it doesn't work with me. i'm so sorry i take so shitass long, hun. ):

Ewen Lythrum: lmfao, dont yell at your mom. It isn't her fault :D ahahah

Hopeless Romance: haha dude, i'd never do that to Al. & that would make Jordan ten times scarier if he did rape her. I dont want him any scarier ):

Emoting-again: O: thanksess so much, darlin.

elephant121: ahah thankyou!

purecrystaltears: ugh yr sweet dude. no lie, you absolutely are (:

Tabitha the Great: awh its okay if you forgot janie. it HAS been awhile :/ im evil at updating arent i ):

WhamBamThankYouMam: -cyber lohv- yup. yr the only person i'll cyber, jackie. ;)

: youre awesome too O: your words made me squeee.

Sitting Squanto: lmao! dramallamas... thats on gaiaonline O: ohmyfackkkkk

AngelofSatan: hahahaha omfg no! SP is not gay! my character (& i've forgotten whom) just thinks so. ): hahahah gosh, sorry bby.

Typesour: Yr the badass fox. you are you are.

Someone With a Blank Username: omfggg where is yr pennaaaaaaame! i freaked out when i couldnt find it. WHERE. WHERE IS IT. oh wait... was it a guest sign in? hahaha

serako: HAHAHAHAHA. aaron gay with the hots for christopher? lolol -HUG- that would be a little too much drama, wouldn't it? ahaha but thats awesome. ilyk.