Clayton "Bear" Piatt's best friend since Junior High was named Dustin Williams. They had many things in common, the most notable of which being near-perfect memories. This usually made school easy - so much so in Bear's case that he had the option of graduating a year early. He had no intention of doing it, though, because of Dustin.

Bear had secretly had a crush on Dustin since they were fourteen, though he had never admitted it to the young man. He could hardly even admit it to himself. The two of them had gone to a Christian school for every one of their grade school years, and while the place provided a wonderful environment for learning, and offered patient, kind teachers, their tolerance of anyone who wasn't heterosexual was nonexistent. Expulsion was the standard for such students - a fact which Bear knew well. He had lost several friends who had admitted to being either gay or bisexual, even though half of them hadn't ever acted on it. Suspicion had once been enough to get you removed, as well, but that rule had since been terminated for being too "extreme".

All this to say, Bear knew how to keep his mouth shut and push down any feelings he had for Dustin. But that didn't mean it was easy. Graduating early would have made things simpler, but he didn't want to leave Dustin. So he didn't tell Dustin about the option their teacher had given him of finishing his schooling from home, and putting a premature end to his high school career.

It was Friday night, and Dustin was sitting beside Bear on his bed, their backs against the wall, going over the copious amounts of English homework they were given every week. This was a particularly difficult task for Bear, as he was dyslexic.

"How you doin'?" Dustin asked quietly, his large blue eyes peeking over the rim of his glasses, glancing at Bear's worksheet to see which question he was on.

Bear hid his answers with his hand teasingly. Dustin was just concerned about him. That was a good thing, right?

"I'm fine," he responded.

"Are you sure? Because I know-"

"I'm fine," Bear repeated, a little sharper this time. Sometimes his concern could be irritating.

"Alright." Dustin went silent, eyes returning to his own paper.

Dustin was the only one who really knew of all the little issues his dyslexia caused him - from his common mix up of the letters B and D, to his always wearing a watch on his left wrist, to keep him from getting left and right confused - and he could tell when he was starting to stress because of it.

Bear seemed to be stressing more and more often, and Dustin wasn't sure what could be causing it, but he thought maybe it was bigger than just his learning disability.

Later that night, after Dustin had decided to stay over, and the two had ordered a pizza for dinner, they sat on the couch in the living room, watching a movie. Bear was having a hard time keeping still, Dustin noticed, pulling apart what was left of the slice of meat lover's pizza on his plate using his fingers, which were wrapped up in a paper napkin, and tapping his feet against the carpet. He was typically very neat while eating, so witnessing this behavior from him was odd to Dustin. He was also keeping an abnormal amount of space between the two of them on the couch, and Dustin had no idea why.

"Is something going on with you, Clay?" asked Dustin. He was really the only person - besides his parents - to ever call Bear by his real name, and that included their teachers.

Bear shrugged noncommittally, fingers still tearing apart his pizza, feet still moving. Dustin placed a hand on his knees, successfully stopping the tapping.

"Hey," he said softly, "seriously, what's up? You know you can talk to me."

"No, I can't." Bear's voice was barely above a whisper, and he wasn't looking at him.

Dustin gently pried the napkin from his hand and set it on the pizza plate, which he put on the table in front of them, before doing the same with his own.

"Talk to me."

But he really couldn't. There were no words to be said. So he went with action, instead.

Without allowing himself the opportunity to really think about what he was doing, he scooted closer to Dustin on the couch, finally looking at him. The pure anxiety in Bear's brown eyes made Dustin wonder if he was having some sort of mental breakdown, but that question escaped him immediately when Bear's lips suddenly touched his own.

Dustin was shocked at this action, but he didn't pull back. Why wasn't he pulling back? That was what he should be doing, right?

Before Dustin could get too deep into questioning himself, Bear pulled away. His face was white and his mouth open, just as shocked at what he had done as Dustin was. His eyes were wild, looking everywhere but at his friend.

"You need to go," Bear spoke, voice shaking.

"Clay. . ." Dustin tried, though he still didn't know what to say.

"You need to go," Bear repeated firmly. "Now."

"I. . ." he tried again, though he was standing up from the couch as he did. "What. . ."

Now Bear stood up, as well.

"Get out!" He was almost yelling. "Now! Please."

With that, Dustin turned and left his friend's house, almost running in his hurry to get out the door.

Bear went for his room without waiting to make sure Dustin was really gone. Oh, God, what had he done? He slammed the door and lay on his stomach on the bed, face buried in his pillow.

He had really fucked up this time. Everything was ruined, his life blown to pieces because of one mistake.

He held the pillow hard to his face with his hands, clutching the sides until his knuckles turned white. Then he took a deep breath, and screamed until he could taste blood in the back of his throat.