A/N: Hey guys. Long time no see! I've had this chapter completed in this form & lying around my house since February or so but I really wanted to add a smut section on the end. Sadly, I never got time to do that so I decided it was better to post it as is than wait even longer. There's always next time, right? :) Either way, here it is & if you're curious about where I've been just check out my author's page or livejournal. It hasn't been all fun & games, I promise. Hope you enjoy & thanks to Lisa for proofing!

Chapter 36

Damien flexed the barely-there arm muscle he'd earned over the past few weeks and then rolled his eyes at the phone as he repeated himself for what felt like the hundredth time in the past three minutes. "I already said I'm fine, Scott. No fever. No throwing up. Nothing. Just go watch the movie without me. Have a little fun. I need a nap, and then I'll be good as new."

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone and then a sigh. "Did you at least call Terry and let him know so he won't be waiting for you?"

Damien could practically see his sexy jock rubbing the back of his yummy, edible neck in frustration as he said those words. It'd damn near taken a miracle to get Scott to head out to the office supply store without him earlier. He'd had to promise to let Terry ride with him to the mall to make sure nobody tried to kick his ass or jump him along the way. It'd been just Damien's luck that the guy was headed that way already and said it was cool with him. Damien had already spent a half-hour on the phone with the big dude, trying to explain why he wasn't going now.

"Yeah, I told him already, so chill out a little. He already left for the mall to meet up with some chick he's been talking to."

"Chelsea?" Scott asked but, before Damien could reply that it was Monica, Scott changed the subject again. "Never mind. Listen, if you don't feel like going to the movie, then I'm coming back home. I'd rather hang out with you this afternoon anyway."

Barely biting back a groan, Damien flopped down on the bed and kicked his shoes off. Scott coming back home was so not part of the plan. "What part of 'I'm gonna take a nap' did you not understand, Gorgeous? You'll just be bored anyway, and we already bought the stupid tickets. I don't get the big deal…"

"Damn it, Damien! I have every right to worry!" Scott growled, sending Damien's heart racing as his cock twitched in his pants. He loved it when his man got all aggressive. So hot. It was tempting to just say the hell with it and call the whole thing off so he could take advantage of Scott's rare mood. Yummy. "Are you even listening to me right now?" Scott demanded, and a shit eating grin spread across Damien's lips as he reached down to rub at his rapidly growing cock.

"Sorry, got distracted for a second there."

"Well, get undistracted. The only reason I agreed to leave without you this morning was because you promised you'd meet me here later. Now you're staying home to take a nap? I'm not buying it, babe. Something's up, and you'd better tell me what it is."

A pale eyebrow shot up at the warning in his sexy jock's voice. Oh, something was definitely up alright and that tone always got his juices flowin'! That tone said Damien was a bad boy who needed a spanking. Yes please!

Damien couldn't help but give his aching cock a squeeze at that thought before easing down his zipper to give little Damien some growing room. "It's nothing like that, I swear. It's just that I overdid it at the gym last week and all the studying and the therapy shit with Dr. Lieberman…Hell, all the hours I spent taking the ACT yesterday would've been enough to wear me out, and then we were up late last night fucking. I'm beat. I didn't realize how bad until I ran downstairs for breakfast and then poked around the room a little while."

"All the more reason for me to be there helping you out instead of sitting alone in the movie theatre, worrying about you," Scott shot back. His voice was a little gentler, but it was obvious that he still wasn't in the best mood at the moment. Either way, it was the best opening Damien was likely to get considering…

Damien let out the most put-out, dramatic sigh he could muster before admitting, "Well, here's the thing… I wanted to surprise you today, so I set something up for you. But if you're not at the theatre when we planned, you're not going to know what it is."

Another long silence, and then Scott chuckled. "That's sweet, babe, but how do you plan to surprise me when you're not even going to be there? I mean, unless you plan to have the cure for world hunger waiting on me, I'd rather be with you, even if all you plan to do is sleep."

Those words were enough to make Damien want to roll over and give it up right there. After all, he'd been studying hard and had been so busy that last night was the first time he'd gotten laid in almost a week. He was soooo fucking horny. A coupla quick fucks just wasn't gonna do it. Damien put his foot down on his own libido quick, fast, and in a hurry as he replied, "Well, the surprise isn't really a something so much as a someone. Whether I show up or not, your surprise will. And if you're not there when the time comes, then I'll be in some deep shit later."

"Okay, just spill it now, Damien." That strict, no bullshit tone was back, and it was almost enough to make Damien cream his pants.

"Fine, if you want to ruin your surprise."

"Ruin away," Scott grumbled, not the least bit fooled by the pouty tone of Damien's voice.

Damien sighed and rolled his eyes again. "You're no fun, you know that right?"

"That's not what you said last night; now tell me."

Just the mention of the night before was enough to make Damien moan and Scott chuckled, a bit smugly at that. "Well, here's the thing. Liberty's been dying to come visit, and the other day, I kinda mentioned that you'd promised to take me to that movie this afternoon. Then she said she'd been wanting to see it. Go figure, right? A chick who likes karate flicks?"

"Dae, you're stalling," Scott pointed out in an amused tone.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. What it boils down to is we decided it might be fun if she just showed up outta the blue. She even bought her ticket online to make sure she gets in. I thought you'd get a kick out of it, and since her dad was out of town anyway…Granny said it was okay if she borrowed one of the drivers and…"

"So, Liberty's supposed to meet us there," Scott stated dumbly, like he'd thought it up all by himself and Damien hadn't just said exactly that.

And this year's 'Mr. Obvious' award goes to… "Yeah, Scott. That's exactly what I'm saying. We were supposed to go out and eat afterwards too, but there's just no way I could make it through the movie without going to sleep and still be up to eating out somewhere. Besides, it's freezing out there and I'm tired of being cold. I nearly froze to death yesterday."

"So, you're telling me you passed up on the chance to see the movie you've been waiting for, knowing that Liberty would be coming too? Sorry, Dae. I'm just not buying it. You really must be feeling bad. I'll go grab Liberty and then come back and take you down to see Nurse Tommy."

Jesus Christ on a crutch! "Are we back to this shit again already, man, 'cause I gotta tell you, it's getting old!" Damien barked before catching himself and taking a deep breath. Stubborn! Stubborn! Stubborn! Damn it! Damien took another deep breath just for the Hell of it before clearing his throat. "Look, believe it or not, I'm all growed up now, Scott. If you want, I can hop down and see Mr. Tall, Buff, and Armed with Needles after my nap, but I'm here to tell ya, I'm fine! F. I. N. E. As in, not sick, don't need to see Nurse Tommy, and sure as Hell not stupid enough to let it go again if I did! Just come by the dorm after the movie and pick me up, and then I'll go eat with you guys. By then, I'll be rested and half-starved."

"Fine!" Scott sniped back before catching himself and taking a deep breath himself.

"Look, Scott. I'm sorry, okay? I'm just…"

"Never mind," Scott cut in, his voice softer again. "You know why I get that way. I'm trying to back off…It's just…really, really hard."

Oh, how I wish, Damien thought to himself with a naughty grin. Unfortunately, he wasn't hard at the moment either. His raging erection had gone the way of the Do-Do when the thing with Liberty had been thrown into the mix. "It's all good, Scott. Truce?"

"Truce," Scott replied with amusement in his voice. "That's still not going to save you from Liberty's wrath when she finds out you stood her up at the theatre."

"I already called to let her know I'm gonna meet up with you two later. It was cool with her. She said it'd give the two of you some time to catch up without my sexy ass there to distract you both."

A loud guffaw in his ear made Damien wince as he pulled the phone away. "I'm sure that's exactly the words she used, too," Scott chuckled before settling back down. "It'll be nice to see her, though. It's been a while."

"So, I take it you're not pissed?" Damien chirped with a knowing grin. Not that Damien minded pissed all that much. Pissed meant growly Scott and growly Scott was sexy as fuck… Well, as long as it wasn't aimed at Damien or a spanking was involved when it was.

"No, I'm not pissed," was Scott's cheerful reply. His mood had suddenly taken a swing in the right direction and Damien's perked up right along with it. "So, you want me to call later? Give you a heads-up so you can just meet us outside?"

"Yeah, man. I swear to God, I ended up stuck with that nasty fucking cereal for breakfast again and they're having Salisbury steak or chicken salad for lunch." Damien couldn't help but make a fake-retching sound at the thought. "Nasty shit. I'll probably just hit the snack stash for lunch instead and be half-starved by the time you get here."

"If you're going to eat that crap, make sure to drink an Ensure too," Scott scolded.

That was his sexy man. Always looking out for him. "Will do, Gorgeous. You just worry about having fun while you're gone. I'm off to Dream Land."

"I love you, Dae. See you later."

"Right back atcha, Gorgeous," Damien replied before ending the call. Operation 'Stick it to Grape Ape' was finally underway and there wasn't anything for him to do at this point except wait it out. For now, it was up to James and Liberty.

After tossing his phone over to the desk, he zipped his pants back up before stretching across to grab the sketch pad and pencil he'd left there. His last meeting with Dr. Lieberman had gone about as well as expected. His newest headshrinker from Hell was still a little worried about Damien's nausea but said that it would ease up sooner or later if Damien kept at it. He'd also suggested something new that Damien wanted to try while Scott wasn't around to freak out if he blew chunks again.

Up until now, Damien had been trying to focus on body parts; a hand, a foot, or a face. Dr. L. had the idea that maybe if he did something less generic, Damien could put aside all the bullshit and get down to business. The guy'd even tossed out the idea that drawing Scott might work better for him, but Damien knew that wasn't the case because he'd tried it a few times before.

For now, Damien was supposed to try one of two things. Either focus on an emotion and ignore detail in favor of getting a vague image of someone he felt safe with, like his mom, dad, or Scott, onto canvas or focus on drawing himself exclusively until he could get the ball rolling. After all, if a guy didn't feel safe drawing himself, who the Hell else was there?

Damien was going for the second option, since the last time he'd tried to draw Scott hadn't worked out at all. First thing, though, Damien sat up nice and straight and crossed his legs on the bed in front of him to do some of the breathing exercises that Dr. L. had walked him through each session. They really did seem to help at times…even though it wasn't nearly enough to keep him from bowing to the porcelain throne if he pushed it too far. Still, it was a Hell of a lot better than blacking out, which is where Damien had been when he'd given up his art a few years ago.

A few minutes into it, Damien started to feel more calm and composed. Even when he snatched his pencil back up, he noticed that his hand wasn't shaking quite a much as it usually did when he tried this. When he touched lead to paper, his stomach lurched a little and he pulled back again and went back to breathing. He knew better than to go too far with it or Scott would get pissed when he got home and found Damien torn up and in a funk instead of rested and ready to chow down. Once his mind was clearer again, and his heart rate more bearable, he tried again.

This time, he managed to get a line down, then another. They were heavy-handed and shaky, even worse than the first time he'd tried again with the tree, but they were lines all the same. He took several more calming breaths and stretched his neck to relieve some of the tension built up there before giving it another shot. The entire time, he kept reminding himself that it was only him, that the lines on the page were nothing more than lines and that they would eventually build up until the image on the page was an image of his own scrawny ass. Once he finished it, he'd give it to Scott as a gift. God knew he didn't have any use for it. After all, what would he want with a picture of himself?

The idea of Grape Ape sitting somewhere staring at a picture of himself flashed into Damien's head and he snorted at the thought. The little bastard. He'd probably do something like that. He seemed half stuck on himself to Damien, especially the way he was always flipping that purply-red hair around and making eyes at Scott. Oh, and looking at Damien like he was dirt on the bottom of the guy's shoe and always acting like his shit didn't stink. Little fucker.

Damien snorted again before forcing his full attention on the sketch he'd been halfheartedly working on. When he did, he dropped the pencil in his hand as his eyes widened in shock. It wasn't much, but it was better than the nothing he'd managed up till now. There was an arm, shoulder, and neck on the page already. His arm, shoulder, and neck. Damien wasn't sure how he'd done it, but he'd done it. Maybe he'd been trying too hard and the trick was not to think about it? Either way, it was progress!

A shaky laugh escaped Damien as he reached up to swipe an arm across his forehead. Only then did he notice the sheen of sweat covering his face and neck. Even his hairline was damp with it. Not that he gave a shit. He hadn't passed out. That had to count for something. He hadn't tossed his cookies, either. Go him. His hands were still shaking, but… Damn. Just…damn.

With a shake of his head, Damien reached over to retrieve the pencil he'd dropped and, before he could pick it up, an idea for a painting popped into his head. It was dark and emotional and heart wrenching and so goddamn perfect that it caused goose bumps to break out along his arms. He'd never done one of himself because…Well, how boring and full of himself would a guy have to be to even want to? The painting wasn't really about that, though. Although Damien would be the first to admit he'd look pretty hot in a toga…Damn, he'd been spending way too much time staring at the poster of the 'David' sculpture on the art room wall.

A loud laugh echoed through the hallway outside the door, jerking him out of his scattered thoughts. Damien jumped and felt a chill run down his spine as he noticed how cool the room suddenly felt around him. In that moment he realized what he was doing. Dr. L. had pointed it out to him several times. Whenever something hard to handle strolled along, Damien used whatever stupid shit crossed his mind to distract himself from dealing with the real problem at hand. Well, that or sex.

Still, no matter how badly he wanted to deny it, the image floating in his head had already taken root. And Damien knew it wouldn't let go of him until he gave it life. He paused at that thought and snorted. 'Give it life'? Listen to him getting all full of himself before he'd even managed a rough sketch!

With a chuckle, he shrugged and picked his pencil back up. Hell, painting this would probably be as painful as pulling his own teeth with a pair of rusty pliers, but he'd be a pussy not to try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Practice makes perfect. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, yada yada yada, and all that other bullshit.

Dr. L. wanted him to talk about all the crap he'd been packing around and deal with his 'emotional issues'? That just wasn't Damien's thing. Never had been. Probably never would be. It suddenly crossed Damien's mind that doing the painting would be damn close to doing what his first shrink had asked him to do, what had ruined his art for him in the first place. Just as quickly, he pushed that thought aside. It really wasn't the same at all.

What he had in mind had almost nothing to do with his attackers and even less to do with how Damien saw himself now. Sure, he still had enough baggage lying around to fill an airport, but the Damien in the painting would be the Damien he'd been before he'd moved here, before he'd met Scott. That Damien no longer existed. That Damien was safe. It'd be the perfect way, in Damien's mind at least, to thumb his nose at all the bullshit he'd been through and say, 'You might've done this to me, but fuck you and the horse you rode in on, you sorry bastards. Just look at me now!'

Damien figured the painting he had in mind would either do exactly that or prove to Damien once and for all that he needed to give the Hell up and find a new calling in life. Either way, it'd be an awesome feeling to burn the fucking thing after it was done and watch it go up in flames. More importantly, though, Damien knew that if he could pull this off, then he could do just about anything.

Scott snapped his phone shut and pushed down the urge to call Dae back and tell his lover he was on the way home. It wasn't like Damien to back out on him like this. Even though Damien had promised him over and over, Scott was worried that maybe the small blonde was coming down with something. Then again, Damien had been doing pretty well lately, with the exception of the vomiting spell a few days back. Maybe Damien really did just want to be lazy and nap for the afternoon.

Now that he thought about it, back before all this had started, Damien had been the master of two things: eating and sleeping. He'd always done both with enthusiasm. Even before they'd become lovers, Scott had often come back to their room for something on a weekend afternoon to find Damien sprawled out on his bed and dead to the world. It was kind of hard to miss, actually, because even though Damien didn't saw logs in his sleep, he snorted a lot. It always made Scott want to laugh when he heard it since he knew Damien would deny it with his last breath.

After glancing around the bus stop where he'd been waiting and shoving his phone back in his coat pocket, Scott took off in the direction of the mall for a second time. The movie started in twenty minutes and he wasn't sure where Damien and Liberty had planned to meet up. He still couldn't believe the two of them had made plans like this without his knowing. Then again, it was only an hour's drive from Grandmother Winthrop's to the school campus.

It was hard to imagine Damien passing up on an afternoon of teasing their friend, but Scott had to admit it would be nice to hang out with Liberty alone. At the risk of sounding like an asshole, Scott often felt a little overwhelmed by the two of them together. Not to mention, a little out of the loop at times. The two of them would sometimes start chatting about hair or clothes, something Scott didn't give a damn about, or they'd gang up on Scott, or talk about things Scott would just as soon keep in the bedroom.

As he walked up to the mall's main entrance, Scott finally spotted Liberty standing nearby, waving at him excitedly with a big grin on her face. "Hey, Liberty!" he called out. "How've you been? I missed you!"

As soon as he spoke, her smile grew even bigger as she hopped down from the sidewalk and walked over to him. She looked great. Her hair was loose and a little longer than he remembered and her cheeks were bright pink from the cold. She was wearing makeup for once and it was a bit heavier than what she'd worn the few times he'd seen her in it. Her sleek, wool coat hung mid-calf and all he could see of her outfit was that she had on a pair of fur-trimmed, black boots that disappeared beneath the hem of her coat.

"About time you showed up!" She announced before reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. "I thought you'd never get here. I've been waiting for nearly ten minutes!"

Scott raised an eyebrow when she continued to hug him. Why was she talking so damn loud? And why in the world did her voice sound lower than normal? It was almost the same pitch as Damien's. Hopefully she didn't have a cold or something. The last thing he wanted was to carry it home to his lover.

After a second, Scott tried to ease away. "Sorry. I didn't find out you were coming until a couple of minutes ago. When Damien called to tell me he couldn't make it, I walked to the bus stop and was about to head back to the dorms."

At those words, Liberty finally released her death grip on him, but at the last second leaned forward to steal a quick kiss before pulling away and grabbing his big, gloved hand to tug him forward. "It's a good thing you didn't go back. I'd be so mad if I came all this way for nothing."

Did her voice sound flirty? He wasn't sure, but it didn't sound scratchy like it would if she had a sore throat. And why was she dragging him around by his hand like a delinquent boyfriend?

As they stepped up onto the sidewalk, Scott hesitated, pulling his hand from her grip and looking down at her warily. "Umm… Liberty? What's going on? Why are you so…"

"Huh?" Liberty asked, her big, brown eyes all innocence and confusion as she tugged off her gloves and stuffed them down into her pockets. "Why am I so what?" she added much more quietly as she leaned in closer with a worried look on her face.

Suddenly, Scott felt embarrassed. What had he been thinking? When they'd hung out as kids she'd always been the touchy-feely-huggy type. She'd probably just been holding back before so Damien wouldn't freak out. "Sorry, what with the hand holding and the hugging and the kiss…I…Forget it. It was stupid."

Liberty frowned up at him for a second before her eyes widened and a surprised, "Oh," escaped her pink lips. Then a blinding smile lit up her eyes as she leaned in again to lay her hand on his chest and whisper, "Oh! You thought I was…? That we were…? That you…?" Her smile grew even wider as a rather loud giggle escaped. Scott immediately went from embarrassed to completely mortified. He was sure that his cheeks were doing an excellent imitation of a fire truck by the time she let her hand drop from his chest and latched onto his arm with a, "That's so gross, Scott."

"Like I said, forget it. It was stupid." Then, to make amends, he tugged off his own gloves and patted her hand where it lay on his arm as he asked, "Ready?"

"As I'll ever be!" Liberty announced as she detached herself and slipped her hand into Scott's before pulling him into the mall. "Can I have popcorn this time?"

Scott wasn't sure what she was talking about since they'd never gone to a theatre before to even buy popcorn, but he just let it go. She was probably just excited to be able to meet up. That would more than explain her strange behavior. Hopefully she'd calm down a little before they went to pick up Damien. Not that Scott thought his Dae would get jealous or anything. Still…

James and Steve watched from their hiding place a few feet away and James had to fight back the urge to tug his hair out in irritation when Scott looked down at Liberty like she'd gone insane and replied, "Umm… Yeah, I guess so."

Way to go, tiger, he thought to himself with no small amount of sarcasm before turning back to gauge Steve's reaction. At that particular moment, the redhead was running his eyes over Liberty's frame with disbelief before he once again locked onto the point where Jock Boy Wonder now held Liberty's hand in his huge paw. Seriously, how did the guy accomplish anything with those big mitts?

As they made their way into the mall, a cautious distance behind the couple ahead of them, Steven turned to James and hissed in disbelief. "There's no way that's a guy. There's just no way."

James shrugged nonchalantly as he kept his eye on the two 'lovebirds' ahead to make sure he and Steven weren't getting close enough to get busted. "Sorry, but that is definitely a guy. If nothing else, you can tell by the voice. It's as low as mine."

"Guys don't have hips like that, James. Besides, that hair is the real deal. It's definitely not a wig."

"You can't see anything under that coat and who cares about the hair? Mine's real," James pointed out before dragging his pony tail over his shoulder and giving Steven a good look. "When it's down, my hair's way longer than that guy's."

"I'm still not buying it," Steven insisted stubbornly, although he kept following the two without any sign of backing off.

"The only reason I know it's a guy is because Damien told me," James insisted as they made their way closer to the theatre nearby. "He was really upset about it at first. It's one of the reasons I told him he should dump the asshole. Instead, he tries to play nice. He's afraid Scott might break up with him if he doesn't play along."

"I still don't believe it," Steven replied, but James could already see his earlier confidence starting to waver in his expression. When James had dropped the bomb that Jock Boy Wonder preferred guys who did drag, and that he had an old flame from back home he liked to hook up with on the side from time to time, Steven had told him he was crazy. The poor guy didn't look too sure anymore.

"Believe what you want. Even if that was a girl hanging on Scott's arm right now, none of that changes the fact that he's out on a date with Damien nowhere in sight," James explained with a bored roll of his eyes. "Now that I think about it, maybe that's why Damien hates you so much. He's afraid Scott'll try to add you to the mix and form his own harem. This is what I was trying to warn you about the other day. A clean-cut kid like you is better off staying away from that guy."

Steven narrowed his pretty green eyes at James for a second before pinning them back on the oblivious couple in front of them. Liberty was now attached to Scott's arm like a leech and smiling up at him like the sun rose and set in the guy's ass. It was almost enough to make James puke. "Maybe I wouldn't mind being added to his harem," Steven mumbled out of the blue and James' mouth fell open in disbelief.

"What?" he asked, sure he'd heard the guy wrong.

Steven met James' shocked expression with a smug one of his own. "Well, it wouldn't be a permanent thing, right? It's obvious that Scott just hasn't met the right guy yet. Once he does, he'll cut everybody else loose. I think I know him well enough to believe that, deep down, Scott's a one guy type of…well…guy."

The conviction with which Steven said those words left James with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Damien wasn't going to like this. Not one little bit. With Steven's unexpected reaction to Liberty, James had serious doubts as to whether or not their plans for later would make any difference at all.

With a sigh, James glanced ahead of them to where Scott and Liberty were now waiting in line to get in. A couple of Scott's buddies were there and Scott was introducing Liberty to them. Not sure what else to do at that point, James paused and backtracked a little before they got too close. The last thing he wanted was to get spotted or for Steven to hear Scott introducing Liberty as a 'childhood friend'.

"Want to head over to the book store?" he asked Steven. It had never been part of the plan to actually follow them into the theatre. To do that would just be counterproductive since there was only so much that Damien and Scott's buddy could get away with before Scott got suspicious. It wasn't like she could just stick her tongue down the guy's throat out of the blue without causing a huge scene and pissing off Jock Boy Wonder.

"I thought we were going to watch the movie," Steven stammered, a little surprised by the change in plans. Still, his eyes lit up at James' suggestion like a dog eyeing an economy-sized bag of Beggin' Strips.

"We were, but I figure we'll probably just get busted and piss Scott off. There's no way I could look the guy in the face without him figuring out that I know. And it's supposed to be Scott and Damien's dirty, little secret. We'll just hang out for a while and catch up with them when they leave."

Steven seemed to think that over for a few seconds and then sent one last, longing glance in Scott's direction before perking back up slightly. "Yeah, I see what you're saying. I'd rather go to the bookstore anyway. I hate karate movies and I want to pick up the last book in the Twilight Series. My dad won't let me read them at home. It's a religious thing."

James nodded with a, "Good. Let's do it," and they headed off while James checked off yet another item on the list of things Steven's parents didn't allow. He wondered if the guy was out to them yet because it didn't seem like they'd allow that either. Even though James' parents were real hard asses when it came to having a gay son, they'd never been as picky as Steven's were about everything else. No fast food. No Twilight. No horror movies. No junk food. No soda. No rap, pop, or rock music. That had to suck. The guy'd probably be a virgin until he was fifty. Then again, it'd be a lot easier for Grape Ape to get laid if he wasn't so fixated on another guy's boyfriend…

The second Scott's back was turned Damien looked over at Liberty and flew the bird while he gave her a nasty look to match. She just snorted and rolled her big, brown eyes at him before pasting a sugary, sweet smile on for Scott as he turned back around to face them.

Scott blinked at her, quickly hiding the confusion that darkened his violet eyes before flicking a glance in Damien's direction. "The service here is kind of lame," Scott observed with a sigh before tossing an impatient look toward the back of the waitress he'd been trying to flag down. They'd been sitting there waiting for their drink order for over five minutes and there was still not even a straw in sight.

Liberty leaned over to lay her hand on Scott's big arm for a second or two. "Don't worry about it. It's not like we're in a big hurry right? Once we leave here, there's nowhere to go but home."

Scott looked a little uncomfortable about the whole situation. Damien had insisted that Scott and Liberty should sit beside each other for the sake of appearances. The fact that Scott, being the gentleman that he was, had helped her off with her coat had only been icing on the cake.

"It would be kinda silly to rush since Liberty's come all the way here to spend time with you," Damien pointed out with a quick smile that didn't quite reach his eyes before reaching across the table to pat Liberty on the hand.

It would be tricky putting on a show for their audience without going over the top and making Scott suspicious. Damien wasn't sure exactly where James and Grape Ape were, but they were probably already there somewhere. Luckily, Liberty and Damien could say whatever they wanted. The real show was going to be their body language. Just enough touching, smiling, and familiarity from Liberty to put the idea in everyone's mind that she and Scott were there together without freaking Scott out, and just enough coolness from Damien to prove he was only playing along with the situation because he had to without giving Scott the feeling that something was off.

Their waitress passed by again, and this time Scott gave her a harassed look and announced, "Excuse me, but you seem to have forgotten our drinks again."

The woman immediately responded to the authority in his voice and stopped. "I'm so sorry, sir. I'll get them for you right now."

"We'd appreciate that," Scott said just as he tapped an impatient finger against the heavy wood table and looked up at her expectantly. The muscles in his arms were tense and bulged with each movement, drawing both the waitress' and Damien's attention for a moment.

Then the woman blinked, like she'd just remembered something she had to do, and took off. Damien would've laughed if it weren't for the twitching cock in his lap. Liberty, of course, didn't have that problem. She just threw back her head and laughed in delight while Scott grinned over at her and winked.

"I think she has the hots for you, Scott," Liberty observed, her smile growing even wider when Scott's cheeks warmed a little bit.

"Nah," he replied with a shrug. "She's just after the bod."

That sounded so much like something Damien would've said himself that Damien couldn't help but laugh. "Can't blame her for that," Damien chuckled as he let his hungry eyes feast on his man. "A person would have to be dead not to notice."

"True," Liberty chimed in with a wink in Scott's direction. "I think the poor woman who seated us was checking out Scott's backside on the way to the table."

"Nope, wrong again," Damien insisted. "She was checking out my fine ass. I caught her looking. Can't say I blame her, though. I'm one sexy bastard, if I do say so myself."

The grin that spread across Scott's face at that comment was nothing if not naughty and Damien couldn't help but grin back. Liberty kicked him under the table, none too gently, and he quickly let the grin fade into something closer to a pout as he turned his attention back to her. "Bitch," he grumbled before pretending to kick her back.

"Asshole," she hissed as she jerked in her seat and shot Damien a nasty glare.

Scott raised a dark eyebrow at them both as worry clouded his expression. Before he could comment, though, Damien's cell went off in his pocket and he reached down to dig it out of his coat. He heard Scott mumbling something to Liberty in a concerned tone as he looked at the display on his phone and then quickly pushed the talk button.

"Hey, Pops. How's things going down there?" he asked quietly as he shot a reassuring glance in Scott's direction. They really were total bastards for putting his sexy jock over the coals like they were.

"Hey, Damien," James replied in a tense, no-nonsense voice. "I just have a second. Steven thinks I'm in the toilet. The second half of the plan was a no-go. You might as well kick back and relax. I'll fill you in on the details, but I'll tell you right now you're not going to like it."

It took everything Damien had not to frown at that comment. "Really? What've you been up to then?" Damien asked lightheartedly with a quick glance in Scott and Liberty's direction. "You say mom's being stubborn again?"

James snickered at that just as Scott glanced back over and asked, "Everything okay?"

Damien nodded and waved Scott's concern aside just as James murmured, "The movie bit went to plan – kinda… He backed out on me at the last minute, though. Said he'd rather head back to the dorm and watch an old movie or something. Sorry, man. I tried."

"Well, you know how she can be once she's set her mind to something. I'm sure you'll work something out."

"Yeah well, I really have to go," James said abruptly, his voice barely a whisper now and Damien could hear a flushing sound in the background. "Like I said, I'll tell you more later."

"Okay. Love you, Pops. Tell mom hi for me," Damien rattled off quickly before ending the call and turning back to Liberty and Scott with a smile. What he really wanted to do was go find James and ask the little twink what was going on. He'd sounded a bit cryptic. Just as quickly, Damien brushed his worries aside and turned his full attention back to his dinner dates. Even if things hadn't gone exactly the way he'd hoped, he'd still missed Liberty and it'd be nice to drop the bullshit and just visit.

That thought in mind, he brushed off Scott's question about his phone call and started rambling excitedly about how he'd tried to nap earlier but couldn't and about how he'd managed to scratch out the rough sketch of himself and the painting he was now determined to do. Scott seemed caught somewhere between annoyed with him and happy for him and Liberty was bouncing nearly as much as Damien was. And they both agreed that it'd be perfect for the large acrylic Damien would be doing in art once he finished with his water painting. He only had a few touch-ups left on the landscape.

If he could pull this new painting off, he might even be ready for the human body shit for the end of the year. Then it'd be one last oil painting to round things out for their class final before graduation. He'd have never believed it at the beginning of the semester, but it looked like he might be able to pull the class off after all. Either way, he really owed James for forcing him into that class.

Well, that's all. Yeah, I know it was a little short. Best I could do for now. Anyhoo... I look forward to hearing from you guys, as always, but unfortunately I have to ask that no one sends flamer reviews over the slow updates. Also, sending rude emails, IMs, or making obnoxious comments on my livejournal will not encourage me to work harder to find time to update. I only ask that everyone respect the fact that I have a life outside of writing, just like everyone else, and that that life is total crap right now. When things smooth out, I'll try to update more often. Thanks for reading & I'll catch you guys next time!