AN: I know, I know - I'm shameless. It's been months. I have no excuse other than my muse left me at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere and I've been thumbin' back here ever since. So yeah, if anyone is still interested and or reading this story - thank you and I apologize for the crappiness of this chapter. After waiting so long I wanted to post a really good chapter, but it has eluded me and maybe this will make my muse feel guilty enough to come home. Maybe?

The Tay Bridge disaster occurred on December 28, 1879 near Dundee, Scotland. The center section of the bridge collapsed during a storm. A train running on the bridge at the time of the collapse, fell into the Firth of Tay, killing seventy-five people. (Taken from Wikipedia)

Redundant Disclaimer: I don't own Valvoline, Vaseline or The Princess Bride in any form.


Charlie's POV:

Okay, sure, my parents are now convinced that I'm gay and that's . . . rough, not to mention awkward and damn frustrating. However, since I am ever the 'glass-half-full' optimist - not really - on the sunny side of things, school will now become a refuge for me - where it was once a battleground. All thanks to the deal with the Devil that I made. Sure, his ignoring me bit me in the ass at the bakery, and I'm still feelings its aftershocks at home, but here at school his ignoring me can only be a good thing. No, no, a phenomenal thing; a thing of miracles.

Ifeel like an untouchable king Monday morning as I regally parade the deserted hall to my locker. Albeit a king with no kingdom, a king with no subjects, but a king nonetheless! Chris - I now feel safe calling him by his given name rather than one of the more apropos descriptors I have benignly bestowed upon him - can't bother me all week. I am untouchable, I am the emperor of my domain, I am . . . screwed.

Fuck! Why is Susan lurking around my locker? Oh, god she's probably going to want to talk about what happened on Friday. Crap, crap, crapity, crap. My kingdom lost quite a bit of its luster as I dragged myself over to Susan.

Susan watched my approach with an inscrutable look on her face.

I offered a ho-hum, "Hey," as I reached her.

She just nodded at me in response. Fine by me, Susan, if you don't want to talk, I'm not going to beg you. Although, I am gonna need you to shift over to the left a little.

"Um, could you move? I need to get into my locker," I asked as politely as I could.

Susan just moved away a little and said sadly, "Okay, Charlie. See you around, Charlie," before shuffling away slowly.

What the hell is her problem? God, she is so weird! I think it's best to ignore her weirdness, after all it doesn't do to have a king moping around, no one wants to see that. Huh. Susan should have received that memo, but I guess it doesn't apply to queens - they're a naturally mopey sort.

First period was blissful. No, 'Charlie, I need your help,' no "accidental" groping from Chris - not even any lascivious looks or stares. Why, he acted as though I wasn't even in the room. Yes! No longer will the walls of my kingdom be breached by inappropriate madness. The king is pleased.

The rest of the week at school passed by uneventfully and, most importantly, grope-free. Wednesday after school I pondered over my day and thought, Hey, maybe things really will go back to my pre-Chris existence, while I took Pythagoras on his daily walk. I walked up the driveway pulling Pythagoras in tow; he wanted to stay and chat up Mrs. Jones' sharpei, A Wrinkle in Time - aka Wrinkles - but Mrs. Jones likes to blather on about the latest wonders on the home shopping network while blowing menthol smoke in my face, so seeing my parents' cars in the drive I latched onto them as an excuse to hustle home. Nearing their cars, I see that they seem to have acquired new purple bumper stickers; I squinted to try to make them out, but couldn't until I got closer. Matching "PFLAG We Value ALL Families" bumper stickers are prominently placed in the middle of their back windows. Great, just great.

My mom ambushed me as soon as I came in the door, "Remember, teddy bear, we have guests coming over for dinner tonight."

"I know, Mom." I've known ever since the first time you told me, two hundred and fifty reminders ago. She seems to think there is a direct correlation between being gay (yep, both parents are still hung up on that wacky theory) and memory loss, as she's hounded me about this damn dinner ever since she got home Monday night.

I turned to head up to my room when her voice stopped me, "Is that what you're wearing for dinner?"

I glanced down at what I had been wearing all day - jeans and my dad's old 'Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute' t-shirt, "Yeah."

"You know, sweetie, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar," she informed me as though it was the wisest thing ever.

Oh-kay, what the hell is that supposed to mean? "I'm not trying to catch flies Mom. I'm not a Venus Flytrap."

"Of course you're not dear. Don't be silly. Your coloring's all wrong for it. I just thought you might want to change into something nice for our guests."

"Why? We're just staying here, right?"

My mom tittered nervously, "Of course we are, but you never know who you might meet."

"You already told me," too many times, in fact, "a colleague of yours from work and her family."

I didn't bother to wait to hear more, just turned towards the stairs and my room where Pythagoras was, no doubt, already on my bed.

Soon all thoughts of nagging dinner guests were replaced by the wonders of Keynesian economics.

" . . . or of slow response to change or of mere human obstinacy, to accept a reward corresponding to the value of the product attributable to its marginal productivity-"

"Char-lie! Get down here! They just pulled up!"

Mom's frantic screech startled Pythagoras so much he jumped off the bed ready for battle and bounded downstairs. I simply straightened, closed my book, and headed downstairs.

Mom fluttered around me like an epileptic hummingbird in the entry-way before gasping, "Teddy bear! Is that ink smeared on your forehead?"

"Wha-" Before I could even finish she popped her thumb in her mouth and then rubbed it on my forehead. What am I, five?

She continued to rub roughly for a couple seconds until I moved my head out of her reach.

"Darn, it's not coming off." She stepped back, looked me over and sighed, "Just try to smile, okay?"

I smiled to demonstrate my ability, "Sure, Mom."

"Not like that, you look like you smell something funny. Try to smile like you mean it."

I rolled my eyes, "I got it, Mom."


Dad suddenly appeared out of nowhere and opened the door, inviting the guests inside. Mom introduced Dad and I to a family of three either tall midgets or really height-challenged individuals. I bet a hundred years ago they would've been beating circus booking agents off with a stick.

"Charlie, this is David, George and Marie's boy," my mom said pointing proudly to the short, scrawny kid like he's the prize pig at the county fair.

The prize pig, or rather David, was staring at me intently like I was the prize.

"Uh, hi." I muttered, looking just to the left of him 'cause I don't want to appear friendly, thereby giving him the wrong impression.

"Charlie, why don't you show David your room while we finish getting dinner ready, ok?" My mom instructed.

Fine. Why do I get stuck entertaining the freaky kid when my parents have guests over? Can't we let him loose in the backyard to run around or something?

I sighed like the martyr I am. "Come on, it's this way." I turned around and headed up the stairs, not bothering to check if he's following. I'd prefer if he didn't actually.

Turns out, he was following. Really closely - a fact I discovered when I turned around to point out my desk chair for him to sit in. He was practically touching me, he was so close. I did the - polite and might I add, normal - thing and stepped back. I might have to start handing out brochures on socially acceptable personal space margins as people today just don't seem to grasp the concept.

He glanced dismissively at the chair, but sat down on it anyway. I don't know how he could move, let alone sit, in pants that tight, but somehow he managed it. Dressed entirely in black, he resembled a black pipe cleaner topped by a pimply bobble-head face and structurally styled, black hair.

I sat on my bed and tried to ignore him in favor of getting some homework done.

"I've seen you around at Eagle High. I go there too, I'm a freshman." His overly affected voice pulled me out of the wonders of Keynesian economics.

Oh, so he wants to do the polite chit-chat thing. Maybe if I keep my answers to the bare minimum, he'll get the idea. "I've never seen you before." I informed him while studiously staring down at my book.

"Yeah, you're a junior; we don't have any classes together."

Thank god, 'cause this kid is annoying.

"I've seen you around, though," he reiterated, ignoring my silence.

"So you said."

This kid is clearly not fluent in body language or subtlety, and now he's on my damn bed! How did I miss him moving over here? He's like an acne-covered ninja. I can picture him schilling acne medication, "Pimpled ninja - even he can't outrun acne." I have some pimples too, I am a teenager, but his face is like a zit farm . . . during breeding season.

"I'm trying to get some reading done here. Did you bring your homework with you?" I didn't bother to wait for a response, just moved my hand in the direction of my desk. "You can do it over at the desk. Or there's a TV downstairs, if you want." Hint, hint take the damn hint.

"Naw, naw I'm good here," he smiled stupidly at me as though he didn't understand that I'm politely suggesting he leave my room, or at least, my bed.

"So," he continued, "since your parents don't know about Chris, does that mean you guys broke up?"

What?! I skipped right over the crazy part and focused in on the unknown, "How do you know what my parents know?"

David shrugged, "Your mom told my mom you aren't seeing anyone."

Jesus Christ. Why does she torment me this way? "David, Chris and I were never dating. He's delusional," as are you went unsaid, but I mentally screamed it nonetheless.

"Don't call me David, call me Darkness," he instructed as he scooted closer to me.

I backed up all the way to my footboard, resting my back against it and stretching my legs out to impede any further progress, "Wha- why would I call you that, if your name is David?"

He shrugged dismissively, "Only my parents and teachers call me David. All my friends call me Darkness."

Uh-huh, well, I know where I wanna be categorized then, "Great, I'll call you David then."

I pulled out the handkerchief I keep in my back pocket and wiped my glasses off. They're kinda smudged and apparently I need to keep all eyes on this sneaky bastard.

David cocked his head and gave me an appraising look, "How old are you?"


"Huh, I've just never seen anyone, not even my grandpa, actually use one of those things."

"Your loss."

"Not really," he said as he shrugged his shoulders, "It's only my loss if you do that in public while we're together, in private you can do whatever weird old-man stuff you want."

Did he just say what I think he said? Yep, I distinctly heard, 'while we're together.' I opened my mouth to set him straight, so to speak, about our never dating, but he just kept talking over the top of me.

"See, if I date a junior, especially an ex of Chris Bridges, I'll have enough dick to last me the rest of high school."

Did he just say, 'enough dick?' . . . Ew. "Charming. So you just want to use me."

"Oh, hey baby," David moved even closer to me, right up against my feet, and tried to pet my face, but I batted his hand away and stood up, "not totally. You're kinda cute, once you look past the whole nerd-nazi thing. And hey," he shrugged dismissively, "you can use me too. I bet you wanna get back at Chris for dumping you."

"He didn't dump me! We were never dating!"

"Then why were you guys kissing last week?"

"Gah! That was something completely different!"

He flapped his hands around like spastic birds. "Whatever, Charlie doesn't matter to me. Oh, hey, . . . Charlie . . . Charles . . . can I call you Prince Charles? And ohmygod you can call me Diana, 'cause I am totally Diana, that Camilla looks like she's slipped the bit one too many times, if you know what I mean, and since you don't like my name anyway . . . ."

Apparently that brief lull in his spastic speech was my opportunity to object to my new title of Crown Prince of Eagle High Faggots.

"Oh! It'll be great Charles, we'll be the royal queer couple of our school!"

"Look, you seem to be laboring under a false impression -"

"Charlie! David! Dinner's ready!" My mom yelled up the stairs before I could set David straight. Oh well, it's not like I'm gonna date this idiot, anyway.

One of the parents had been "considerate" enough to sit David and I next to each other. This unfortunate seating arrangement resulted in David repeatedly molesting me throughout dinner. Every single time he grabbed or "caressed" me, I'd wrench his appendage off me. Once he even tried to convert my removing his hand from my hip into hand holding! He just didn't get the damn hint that I don't want his sweaty hands on my thigh, or my hip, or my stomach, or my anything.

As I was trying to choke down a mouthful of lasagna – unwanted sexual advances are hell on the appetite - I felt his hand trying to invade my territory yet again. That's it. I've had it. I grabbed his hand and squeezed viciously while gritting out, "STOP touching me! You're making me lose what little appetite I have left." Then I threw his hand away from me.

"Charlie!" my mom reproached from her end of the table.

I looked up to see all four shocked parents staring at me as though I had just said, 'Richard Feynman is grossly overrated.' I have to defend myself, "He's been grabbing me all night! I just want to eat in peace without the threat of molestation."

Surprisingly enough, the evening was pretty much over after my outburst. We still had to sit through a - now tense dinner - well it had always been tense for me, but now everyone got to enjoy it too.

As soon as David and his parents left, I rounded on my mom. "Mom! Why would you do that?! That kid is vile! He's a clingy, emo troll!"

My mom turned and walked back to the kitchen while saying, "Well, based on that specimen we saw at the bakery the other day, I assumed that that is your type."

"What type?! The fact that he's biologically male? What do I have to do to convince you that I'm not gay? Kiss Anne right in front of you?!"

"Teddy bear, no. She'd hurt you. You don't have to convince me of anything, I'm your mother. I love you no matter what."

"Aarrgh. You're still not listening to me!"

"What's there to listen to? I understand perfectly. David is not your type. I must admit, he did look better in the picture on Marie's desk, but no matter. Charlie bear, we love you no matter what." My mom paused to throw her arms out in an encompassing gesture, "This is a safe place here, you can trust us," she concluded gay-acceptance speech number fifty-eight by looking at me hopefully.

Uh-huh. "Whatever. What about David?"

"Well on Monday, I was telling Marie how you came out to us over muffins last Sunday -"

"I'm not gay, Mom."

"As I was saying, I told Marie about your little crush on that aloe barbadensis at the bakery and she mentioned that her son, David, is single so I thought if you met someone else maybe you'd see that there are other boys out there for you."

Oh my god. Chris has truly infiltrated all aspects of my life! He's like kudzu. Worming his way in and slowly killing me off. That's it! Maybe she'll understand if I make a plant analogy.

"Mom, the guy from the bakery is like kudzu. Get it? Kud-zu." I enunciated it slowly to allow it to sink in.

My mom nodded, "I agree, his hair is unusual, but I would really classify it as aloe barbadensis not Pueraria montana." She paused to shake her head, "Teddy bear, you're going to have to work on your plant classifications if you think that boy's hair looks like kudzu."

Amazing. The lengths the human mind will go to when it is in denial. "No. I don't think that either he or his hair looks like kudzu. He is kudzu. He's a pervasive, invasive specimen that's trying to take me over."

She eyed me appraisingly, "Do you want to be 'taken over'?" She then misinterpreted my look of disgust and said, "Maybe you're more comfortable talking to your dad about this. Walter! Walter, Charlie has something he wants to discuss with you!" My mom yelled towards the other end of the house at my dad before I could stop her.

Thus I ended up having a painful and traumatizing gay sex talk with my dad. Wherein he stressed the importance of safety and lube. I can never look at Vaseline or even Valvoline the same again.

After that horrible dinner Wednesday night, Thursday at school was preceding much like the rest of the week. That is to say, blissfully Chris free. Except, typical, this time I actually wanted to see him. No, not for that, I need his help getting rid of David. David, who somehow found me after second period and preceded to act as though I hadn't yelled at him the night before to 'stop touching me,' by, you guessed it, touching me.

I looked all over for Chris, but, surprisingly enough, I couldn't find him. I never had a need to seek him out before, he was always just around, unfortunately. Maybe Anne knows where he might be.

"Anne, have you seen Chris around lately?" I asked as we walked to our next class together.

She snapped her head in my direction and sneered, "I have better things to do than keep track of the people who have crushes on you. I'm not your misguided love secretary. What, do you want to know where Susan is too? Or are you only interested in Chris?"

"Oh-kay. Do you know where Chris is or not?"

"Uh, yeah but only because our classes are kinda close together and I see him around so yeah - he's in Art right now."

"Thanks Anne."

I caught the sight of Chris' back outside the Art building as he headed to lunch. "Hey! Asshole!"

Chris turned around totally unsurprised to see me, with his eyebrow quirked he queried, "Are you bipolar?"

My momentum was abruptly halted like a car going full-speed into a cement wall. Suddenly I feel as though my life has become a demonstration of Newton's First Law of Motion. ". . . What?"

Chris held up his thumb and said, "Well, first when I started hitting on you you were all, 'No, no I'm not gay; bad Chris bad,' but then once I leave you alone: you," Chris added his index finger, "suddenly show up at my parent's bakery acting surprised to see me there, then," and middle finger, "you want me to meet your parents and now," finally the ring finger, "you come looking for me at school calling me your special petname. If you just like the chase and now you've realized you made a huge mistake - sor-ry Char-lie -"

I threw my hands up in the warding off gesture, "Wait, wait I didn't want you to meet my parents, I wanted you to tell them the truth - y'know that you've been stalking me and-"

Tay Bridge crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at me as best he could, "From my perspective, it looks like you're stalking me - - and I really don't appreciate it."

"Wha-what is wrong with you? Never mind," I waved my hands dismissively, "I don't have enough time. Look you've pretty much ruined my life, so logically you should try to help fix it."

"Ruined your life?" He snorted derisively, "More like made it interesting, you're welcome by the way."

"You're not thanked!"

"Y'know what? I'm actually glad that we didn't work out 'cause you are surprisingly ungrateful and I just don't want that kind of negativity in my life. It's just really bad for-"

"Christ! Chris focus!"

"Ok, ok. What do you want?"

"Thanks to you that David twerp is all over me and I want you to do something about it!"

"What David twerp?"

"Y'know David, David Waters."

"Oh, you mean Darkness?"

"You're friends with that little shit?!"

"More acquaintances really. He dated a friend of mine for about a couple weeks."

Unbelievable. "Whatever. What's important here, is that you fix what you broke. David would never want to date me if you hadn't lied to everyone and told them that we're," I gestured emphatically between us with my pointer finger, "dating. He won't leave me alone! He wants me to call him Diana! And, and he's been touching me in a highly inappropriate manner! It's not right!"

Chris merely stares over my shoulder at someone, nodding his head at whomever has caught his attention. He vaguely pats my shoulder before wandering off. Unbelievable! I come to him for h-e-l-p and he freakin' ignores me! I spin around to yell some parting obscenities at his retreating back only to see Chris ambling over to David presumably, to make him see sense.

Am I worried that I am a total pussy who can't get one scrawny, pimply, practically prepubescent boy to leave me alone? No, not really. I know my strengths and weaknesses and convincing crazy people to ignore me is not one of them. If nothing else, Chris has taught me that.

What, from this distance, starts out as a seemingly calm conversation soon morphs into something less calm, more angry. Chris' hands are flapping around wildly and soon his arms join them. They're spinning around like the wings of a fighter jet going down, down amidst a blazing battle.

Suddenly Chris whips around and stomps his way back to me.

"What happ-" My question is arrested by Chris grabbing my head with both of his hands and pulling me towards him.

Unbelievable! He's kissing me again! Unbelievable! Hmm, maybe I should stop using that phrase in reference to Chris, since he always seems to defy logic. I feel like I'm turning into Vizzini from The Princess Bride.

"He didn't fall! Inconceivable!"

"You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Apparently in Chris-verse "unbelievable" really means "any number of surprising events occurring on, in, near or around Cristobel Bridges." Go ahead, look it up. I dare you.

Beta'd by the super fabulous xanthofile! Thanks 'cause it needed lots of help.

Mucho, mucho to the nth mucho thanks for all of the reviews, they really inspire me to continue: mandraco, krista-pixie, xanthofile, magalina, calamity jane, Casey and the Sunshine Bear..., Abstruse Blue, Scribbles Go On Forever, Quotes, pfeiffer, Rock on an Ocean Floor, WittyWings, Zebbie, audri, Sychaeus, iwishillwilluponyou, neongoldtooth, Ambriel, Sobran, cescy, Amindaya, Bedlam Chaos, Rainbowelectric and MacKitty.

The quote that Charlie reads in his room is taken from The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard Keynes.