Hi. My name is Michael. Michael Stevens. I have a twin brother named Tanner. I do pretty well in school and I’m on the soccer team. My best friends are named Ashton, Thomas, and Paige. I have green eyes and short brown hair.

As of right now, we were standing in Hot Topic, watching Paige look at cool t-shirts. Paige picked up a Teen Titans-based shirt with Starfire on the front and held it up.

“Do you think this would fit me?” Paige asked.

Thomas nodded. “It would look good on you. Get it.”

Paige considered, then nodded and went to pay for her new shirt.

As we left the shop, Paige brushed up against my side and bumped her hip against me.

“Hey, Mikey. Are you okay?”

“What? Oh, yeah. Why?”

Paige shrugged. “You seem really out of it today.”

I shook my head. “I’m fine. Sorry if I seem distracted.”

Paige shot me a look. “Are you distracted?”

“No.”

“Mikey, you can talk to us, you know. Tell us what’s wrong.”

You wouldn’t understand. “It’s nothing.”

Ashton stopped and said, “Anyone hungry? Let’s stop for dinner.”

 

Later that night, I went into my room to get ready for bed, when my iPhone phone buzzed.

I glanced at the screen. It was a text from my brother. It read: Hey, Mike! You might wanna get down here right away.

Where are you? I replied.

The skate park, was Tanner’s summons.

I ran outside and jumped into my car— and electric blue-and-silver Cobra Jet Mustang— and drove to the skate park down by the public pool.

Tanner met me outside the gates and explained, “Your crush is here… And looking for you.”

I smiled at my brother. He was the only one who knew my secret and didn’t make me feel shame and embarrassment over it. I let Tanner lead me into the skate park and followed his finger as he pointed out the most beautiful person I had ever seen.

My crush had a name. It was Ryan. Ryan Payne had short black hair and sparkling green eyes… He truly was amazing.

Ryan spotted me making my way over to him and he excused himself from talking to his older sister, Kayi, and approached. “Hey, Mikey.”

“Hey, Ry…” I shifted nervously.

“You here for a run?” Ryan asked with an easy smile.

I shrugged. “Didn’t bring my board. I’m here… to watch Tan have a go at the ramps.”

“Ah.” Ryan nodded, still smiling. “Your brother’s lucky, then.”

“How so?”

“He has someone as supportive as you.”

I blushed, making Ryan laugh. Ryan was beautiful when he laughed, open and approachable. More friendly.

Ryan stopped laughing for a second and went quiet, thoughtful. He fidgeted slightly. “Are you busy tomorrow?”

“I’m taking Tanner to an amusement park…” An idea suddenly popped into my head.

“Hey, why don’t you come?”

“Really?”

I nodded. “It’ll be fun.”

“You don’t think Tan would mind?”

“Nah, he’d be cool with it.”

Ryan grinned. “Okay, then. Oh, hold on a sec. I’m being summoned by Kayi. I’ll be back— don’t go anywhere.”

I nodded and told him I wouldn’t. He walked away towards his sister and I watched his mighty fine ass retreating. I sighed. What I wouldn’t give for just one stolen moment with him…

“Hey, Mikey.” Tanner came up beside me, casting me a look. “I saw you flirting it up with Ry.”

I shook my head. “He doesn’t like me like that. I doubt he’s even gay.”

Tanner frowned. “You’re really bad at reading people, Mikey.”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t see the signs?”

“What signs?” I scowled. What the fuck does that mean?

“He likes you, Mikey,” Tanner insisted.

“How would you know that?”

Tanner raised his eyebrows at me. “Ry’s my best friend, Mikey. And you’re my brother. I think I’d know if there was something between them.”

“There’s nothing between us, Tan,” I sighed wistfully, watching Ryan laughing at something Kayi had said.

“Not yet.” Tanner corrected.

“Why do you want us together so badly?” I asked.

“Why?” Tanner stared at me incredulously. “Because you’re my brother and you deserve to be happy, not matter what you’re into.”

I smiled at him. “I love you, too, Tanner.”

Tanner laughed and motioned toward Ryan. “Now go get your cowboy, tiger!”

Ryan, I noticed, was walking toward us with a big smile. Tanner squeezed my shoulder and disappeared.

“What time do you want me at your house?” Ryan asked.

“We’re leaving at ten.”

“I’ll be there at 9:45, then.”

“Okay.”

An awkward silence descended. I had no idea what to say now.

“So…” Ryan glanced past me and frowned. I looked over my shoulder to see Tanner watching us. If I hadn’t known better, I could swear Ryan was blushing in the darkness. “Have you told your brother I’m coming?”

“To Knoebels? Not yet.”

Ryan shifted his feet, emerald eyes glittering, and ran a hand through his short hair. He truly was gorgeous. “Wanna go for a walk?”

“Where?” The word was out before I’d fully thought it through. “I—I mean, yes. Sure.”

Ryan smiled and led me away from the skate park. I caught Tanner’s aqua gaze and he winked at me. I rolled my eyes back at him.

“You ready for our AP English test on Monday?” Ryan asked, to make conversation.

“Yeah.” I probably won’t be able to concentrate, like usual, courtesy of the guidance office for putting us in the same class and the teacher for putting as beside each other at the same desk…

Sometimes, it seemed like the world was set up just to torture me.

“Michael…”

I turned to look at Ryan and was confused to see him fiddling his thumbs and staring at the ground as we walked. He slowed his step and I slowed to fall into step with him.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I need to ask you something…”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way…”

“Of course not.” I had no idea where he was going with this, but I decided to let him finish his question. “What is it?”

“Are you… Ganymede?”

Am I a Ganymede? That was his question? “If you’re asking if I’m gay, then…” I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. This was really hard to say. What if he judged me or mocked me? What if he wanted nothing more to do with me? I couldn’t bear it if he hated me… “Yes. I’m a homosexual.”

Ryan nodded. “I suspected as much.”

I frowned at him. Where’s the judgement in his eyes? The disgusted curl of his lip? The angry, hateful words…? “Why are you still here?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not hitting me or running away… Most people would do so when they found out.”

“Well, I’m not most people.” Ryan said.

Very true. “So… you really don’t mind?”

Ryan shook his head. “Really.”

I was so relieved, it felt like my heart would explode.

“Does your family know?” Ryan asked.

“Tanner does. I don’t think my parents would be so… accepting.”

“I know how you feel.”

I froze and asked cautiously, my thought whirling, “You… do?”

“Can I tell you something in confidence?”

“Of course.”

“My mom bawled her eyes out and my father can’t even stand to be in the same room with me.”

“Over what?”

“When I told them.”

“Told them that you were… gay?”

Ryan nodded. “They weren’t thrilled.”

A thrill went through me at the confirmation that I might have a chance with Ryan. “I bet. I’m terrified to tell my parents. The way they’d look at me, treat me… I don’t think I could handle their disgust.”

“Yeah. My mom starts crying every time I walk into a room and my dad gets up and walks out.”

“Your sister seems okay with it, though.” My heart cried out for him. No one deserves that pain.

Ryan nodded. “She’s more open and welcoming and accepting than the rest of my Catholic family.”

“At least you have Kayi on your side.”

“Yeah.” Ryan sighed. “And you have Tanner.”

“I do, indeed.”

“So…” Ryan grinned, back in a light mood. “See any hot guys at school you like?”

Yes! my mind screamed. You! But I couldn’t say that. Tanner knew and even wanted that relationship to happen, but it might freak Ryan out. “Not really.”

“No? None?” Ryan nudged my side with his hip.

“Have you?” I asked.

Ryan smiled. “Yes.”

My heart fell. Of course. He’s taken. I sighed, but covered it with a cough. “Who?”

“I’ll tell you tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“Well, bye.” Ryan grinned. “I think Kayi wants to leave now. I’ll see you at ten.”

I nodded and we went back in companionable silence to meet with our siblings.

 

It was 9:30 in the morning when the doorbell rang.

Tanner answered it and called up the stairs, “Mikey? Ryan’s here!”

I mumbled something incoherent and pressed a pillow over my head.

“Mikey?” Tanner knocked on my door. “Get your tired ass out of bed. We’ve got to leave in half-an-hour.”

The door opened when I didn’t respond and Tanner and Ryan entered.

“Mikey?” Tanner came to sit on the edge of my bed while Ryan hung back by the door.

“You awake?”

“Go away,” I mumbled.

Tanner sighed. “I didn’t want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice…” Tanner stood and yanked my blankets off the bed.

I grumbled and lifted my head to glare at my brother when I caught Ryan staring at me. “What?”

Ryan blushed. Without responding, he turned and went downstairs. Tanner laughed. “See? I told you he has a crush.”

I looked down at my bare chest, blushing. Thank the gods I was at least wearing pants!

“Thanks a lot, Tan,” I muttered sarcastically.

“Get up and take a shower… Do you want me to go get Ry to join you?”

I blushed bright red and threw a pillow at my brother.

Tanner laughed again. “I’ll be downstairs when you’re ready.”

 

“You guys should come on The Phoenix with me.” Tanner said.

“I’m not wild about roller coasters.” Ryan said.

“I’ll stay down here, thanks.”

Tanner smiled knowingly and left. “I’ll be right back, then. You kids have fun!”

He left Ryan and me by a bench. We sat down and watched him run towards the line.

“What did you want to tell me?” I asked.

“What?” Ryan looked startled.

“You said last night that you had something to tell me. You said you saw someone cute and you were gonna tell me who he is.”

“Oh, right.” Ryan shifted nervously. Then he took a deep breath, turned towards me, and kissed me.

I froze, unsure of how to react. Then, before I could chicken out, I leaned in and kissed him back.

When Ryan finally pulled away, we were both breathing hard.

“That was…” I couldn’t find the words to describe it. Exhilarating, amazing, fantastic, wonderful, world-altering…

Ryan was staring at me, ignoring the rude comments and looks of people passing by. He blushed. “S—sorry, Mikey, I didn’t mean…”

I interrupted him— I’d never been so bold in my life— by pressing my lips back to his.

When we broke apart again, Ryan asked through breathless panting, “Does that answer your question?”

I nodded. Oh… my… god.

“How long have you…?”

“Known I was gay?” I asked.

Ryan shook his head. “Felt like that?”

“Felt like what?”

That. Towards me.”

“You mean how long have I liked you?”

Ryan nodded.

“Pretty much since middle school,” I admitted. “When we met.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Ryan asked.

“I was scared you wouldn’t feel the same. I mean, until last night, I wasn’t even sure if you were gay.” I explained.

“You could have asked.” Ryan said.

“And risk offending you?” I shook my head. “That would have been awkward.”

Ryan laughed. “You need to get your gay-dar fixed. I don’t think it’s working right.”

I giggled like a lovesick schoolgirl.

Ryan glanced toward the roller coaster to see if my brother was coming. Not spotting him, he asked, “Have you ever been in love before, Mikey?”

I shake my head. “Only with you.”

Ryan shot me an amused sidelong look. “Are you saying you love me, Mikey?”

I blushed deep scarlet. Great. Now I’ve gone and scared him off. “I— Sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

Ryan was still grinning. He reached over and consciously took my trembling hand.

“There’s no need to be sorry, Mikey. No regrets, okay?”

I nodded and returned his question, “Have you ever been in love, Ry?”

“Once before. But I was burned, so I wasn’t sure how to proceed with my feelings toward you… Which I’ve been struggling with since I moved here in middle school, too.”

“What happened?” I clapped the hand that wasn’t holding his over my mouth in abject horror. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be nosy or rude.”

“I’m not offended, Mikey. Calm down. It was this guy named Eric. He was my best friend back home in Texas. I trusted him. He was cute and nice and seemed to accept all my randomness and flaws. But the one thing I couldn’t have guessed about him was that he was a homophobic asshole. I really, really liked him. One day, I told him, and he flipped. I didn’t tell you right away, because I didn’t want you to freak. Anyway, Eric told the whole school I was a perverted faggot. Luckily, news didn’t get to my parents. At least that was one line my former-friend wouldn’t cross. He thought it would even more humiliating if I had to do that.”

I murmured a sound of sympathy. “Oh, my goodness, Ry. I’m so sorry you had to go through that…”

“It’s okay. I’ve pretty much accepted the face that people are douches.”

I smiled wryly. “That, they are.”

Tanner came bouncing up, gushing about the ride. “That was so much fun! You guys should—” His eyes dropped to our entwined hands and he beamed. “See, Mikey? I told you. I knew it, I knew, I knew it!”

“Knew what?” Ryan asked.

“I told Michael that you liked him, but he didn’t believe me.” Tanner smirked. “But he was wrong.”

“Okay, fine. You were right,” I said. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“Yes.” Tanner bobbed his head, still grinning like a maniac. “Now come on, you lovebirds. Let’s go ride the Skloosh!”

 

It was Sunday.

We had had a blast at the theme park yesterday. I had even gotten my first kiss!

Memory came rushing back as my body came awake. The taste of his lips, the sound of his voice, the feel of his hand in mine…

My phone rang, playing my ringtone and I answered it.

“Hey, sexy.”

I grinned at Ryan’s voice, blushing. “Hi.”

“Are you busy today?”

“No. Why?”

“Do you want to… go out tonight?”

“You mean in public?”

“We kissed in public yesterday.”

“Yes, and we got judged for it.”

“Do you really care what people think of you? Of us?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know… I just do.”

“Well, don’t. You’re awesome and better than they are. People are just jealous.”

“Of what?”

“Your amazing kissing talents, of course.”

I blushed. “I’m not that good.”

“It’s the best kiss I‘ve ever experienced.”

“You need to get out more.” I said, making Ryan laugh. I shivered at the timbre of his masculine chuckle.

“You need to come over here so I can undress you.”

I blushed even darker. “Ry—”

“I’m kidding. But, seriously. Do you want to go out tonight?”

“Sure.”

“Great. So, how about you come over to my house around five? We could eat dinner before catching a movie.”

“What about your parents? Won’t they be upset?”

“I’m under Kayi’s watch. Our parents went on a cruise. They’ll be gone for another six weeks at least.”

“Well, then, sure. I’ll be there.”

“Do you want me to pick you up?”

“I have a car and I know how to get to your house. Tan and I have been there before.”

Ryan sighed. “You have a lot to learn, Mikey.” He laughed. “I’ll pick you up at five.”

“Okay…”

 

Five-o’-clocked rolled around and Ryan was knocking on the door.

I left with him, to Tanner’s grinning face as he waved us off.

“Where did you tell your parents you were going?” Ryan asked as he opened the passenger door of his Mercedes Benz for me.

“The truth.”

“That you were going on a date with me?” Ryan asked, surprised, raising an eyebrow at me.

“Well, okay. Part of the truth. I told them I was going to hang out with a friend.”

“And they didn’t ask which friend?”

“Nah. I’m eighteen now. They trust me.”

“Lucky.”

I shrugged. “I guess.”

Ryan grinned as he started the car. “Off we go…”

“Ry?” I asked.

“Yeah?”

“Is this… real?”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re actually… dating?”

Ryan turned on the radio and Story Of My Life by 1D started playing. He sighed and turned to stare into my eyes. “Yes, Mikey. This is real.”

 

On Monday, it rained.

We were sitting side-by-side in English class, but I was focused on him instead of the lecture our teacher was giving. The exam has been easy, but I kept having to reread questions to keep from misinterpreting them, distracted by the beautiful man to my left.

Thoughts of our date were spiraling through my mind, making it impossible to focus on anything else. Ryan had taken me to his house and we’d said hello to Kayi. She’s beamed when she saw me, given me a hug, and wished us luck. What for, I wasn’t sure. But then we’d hung out in Ryan’s room, talking and making out. Half-an-hour later, we went out to eat at a candle-lit restaurant. We hated all the movie options that were playing at all the local cinemas, so we opted to watch one at his house. We watched Blue Is the Warmest Color.

Then, when the film was over, Ryan had turned off the television and kissed me again. It was different from our first one. This one was passionate, intense, and steamy.

Unfortunately, our night was cut short when Tanner called to say he was sorry and hated to interrupt, but he couldn’t figure out how to work the oven to make dinner. I’d sighed, rolled my eyes, and told Ryan the news with sincerest regrets.

Ryan shot a look at me out of the corner of his eye now and ran a tongue suggestively along his lips then across his teeth and wiggled his eyebrows at me.

Instant erection.

I smiled at him and he grinned back.

Ryan leaned over to whisper in my ear when the teacher was facing the board, his warm breath tickling my ear. “I’m so hot for you right now…”

I blushed, making Ryan chuckled softly.

The bell rang forty-five minutes later and the class rushed to leave.

Ryan fell into step beside me on our way to our lockers. “That was another stupid lit class.”

“I like English, but Mr. Howerd seems to have a knack in making class extremely dull and boring.”

Ryan nodded.

I caught a couple of girls watching us and sighed. “Don’t look now, but I think we’re being checked out.”

Ryan followed my gaze and nodded to the girls, who turned red and giggled like fangirls at a boyband concert.

“We should be attracted by that…”

Ryan shook his head. “I’m not attracted to young kittens or the color pink… I prefer the rainbow.”

 

“Have you and Ryan fucked yet?”

I looked up in shock at Tanner’s question. “Of course not!”

“Hey, relax. I was just asking.”

“Why would you think we had?”

Tanner shrugged. “Just wondering. Anyway, details.”

“What?”

“What have you done?”

I sighed and put away my book. Tanner perched on the arm of the chair and watched me expectantly. I sighed again and told him all the dates and kisses we’d shared.

“I’m so glad you found happiness.” Tanner smiled. “You deserve it, brother.”

“Were you trying to set us up?” I asked him.

Tanner nodded. “Duh. I thought it was more obvious.”

I frowned at him. “You’re weird.”

“And you’re sparkly. Must I say more?”

I grinned and looked down at my outfit I’d bedazzled with copious amounts of glitter. I shrugged.

Tanner turned serious. “Are you ever going to tell Mom and Dad?”

“How can I?” I asked. “I don’t want to disappoint them.”

“Do you think that, maybe, they’ve already guessed?” Tanner asked.

I stared at him as realization hit. “What? You think they know?”

Tanner shrugged. “Probably. But I’m sure they wouldn’t hate you. Take a chance. Tell them.”

“They’ll kill me, Tan.”

Tanner shook his head. “Give them credit, Mikey.”

Nervous, terrified butterflies had sword-fighting competitions in my stomach. “I…”

“Think about it, Mikey. You don’t have to tell them, but in order for you and Ryan to be truly happy, you’ll have to come out of the closet eventually.”

I nodded and thanked him. Tanner stood and left just as Mom came in.

“Hey, honey. Where’s Tanner going?”

“I’m assuming to the skate park,” I told her as we heard the door shut.

“Why don’t you go with him? Did you guys get into a fight?”

I shook my head, pain stabbing me at the affection and tenderness in her voice. I couldn’t bear to have her curl her lip at me in disdain, but Tanner was right. I’d have to tell them sometime. “Hey, Mom…”

“Yes, dear?” Mom paused at the door between the den and the kitchen.

“Can I… talk to you?”

Mom came back into the room and sat in the chair opposite me. “You can always talk to me.”

How will she look at me, once she learns the truth? “I have something incredibly hard to tell you.”

Mom nodded, encouraging me to go on.

“I…” I had absolutely no idea what to say. All thought and reasonable words abandoned me. I should lie. Just make up something else. But I knew my secret would come out eventually, like Tanner said, regardless if I told them now or not. I decided to say it fast and get it over with, like ripping off a band aid. “I’m gay.”

“Pardon me?” Mom asked, with a laugh. “I didn’t quite catch that.”

I took a deep breath. “Mother… I’m gay.” I watched her closely, inspecting her reaction.

Mom smiled. “Oh, honey.” She stood and came to give me a hug, which surprised me greatly. “I know.”

“What?”

“I guessed a while ago. But I’m proud of you for telling me.”

“You’ve known?”

Mom raised her eyebrows and gestured to my outfit.

Right… I felt like an idiot for not seeing it sooner. Tanner had, though. “Does Dad know?”

“Yes.”

“And you guys are okay with it?”

Mom nodded. “Of course, darling. What, did you think we’d be angry?”

“To be honest… yes.”

Mom gave me another big hug. “I love you, baby. I could never be angry with you. It’s your life.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I felt tears stinging my eyes. “Thank you.”

 

Ryan brought up an interesting topic the next day in art class. “I wonder if gays are welcome at prom.”

“I’m going to guess not.” I said.

Ryan sighed. “I know, but it would be nice to go together.”

“Not with our principal, who’s a homophobic dickwad.”

Ryan laughed. “True. Maybe we can spend time at my house.”

“Will your parents be back by then?”

“No. Not for another five weeks.”

“Oh. Okay. Sure. We could tell my parents we’re having a sleep-over.”

Ryan grinned and mocked shock. “My god, Mikey! Are you saying you want to spend the night?”

I laughed at him, but played along. “Why, yes, Ry. That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Ryan cast me an amused look. “I would love that.”

It would be the perfect kind of love.

 

Prom night.

Tanner, Ryan, and I were standing in the foyer, waiting for my parents. Mom came in and smiled at us. “Have fun tonight, you three.”

We nodded as Dad entered.

“Don’t do anything crazy.” He told us. “Nothing Therese and I wouldn’t do.”

Ryan and I exchanged a look. He smiled and I fought to stifle a giggle.

“Bye, now.” Mom squeezed my shoulder and Dad gave it a loving pat.

Then we were gone. Tanner was supposed to go to prom with his girlfriend, Mia, and we were dropping him off now. Then I’d go home with Ryan.

At Mia’s house, Tanner got out and waved goodbye then went to greet Mia in her dress.

Ryan drove us back to his house and we went up to his room.

We started watching Donnie Darko until Kayi left to hang out at her best friend’s house for the night. Then Ryan flipped off the TV and turned back to me. With a smirk, he yanked his shirt off and my breath caught at his ripped masculinity. He got down on his hands and knees and crawled over to where I was leaning against his bed. He pulled me to him and kissed me, soft and tender. My heart melted.

I yanked my shirt off and he ran his hands across my chest, his breath warming my neck.

“Has anyone told you that you’re beautiful?” Ryan whispered.

“No.” I breathed, in awe of Ryan.

“Well, you are.” He said. “You have a gorgeous body, an amazing personality, and a beautiful soul.”

“How do you know what my soul looks like?” I asked.

“Because my soul is in love with it.”

I smiled. “Are you saying we’re soul mates?”

“That’s exactly right.” Ryan kissed me again. “My most perfect love.”

 

I had never felt true happiness until that moment, even when I’d told Tanner my secret and he’d accepted and supported me.

Ryan stood and pulled my to my feet and dragged me willingly to the bed. He kissed me again as my head pressed against his pillow. He moved his hand down to finger the waistband of my jeans. Then he slipped his hand under and touched the part of me that was so hard it was painful. I let out an involuntary breath of pleasure.

Suddenly, the door banged open.

“Ryan!” Someone gasped.

We both looked to see his mother standing in the doorway.

Ryan swore and jumped off the bed. “Mom, this—”

Ryan’s mom started crying and calling for his father, Timothy. “Tim! Tim, get in here!”

Ryan’s father walked in and froze when he spotted me, shirtless and prostrate on Ryan’s bed behind him. Timothy turned five different shades, before turning a purple-red. He thundered, “How dare you contaminate my house? You filthy, nasty perverts! You disgust me!”

Ryan winced, but didn’t move, even when Timothy strode forward and slapped him. Hard.

“You don’t deserve anything I’ve given you.” Timothy snarled. “You ungrateful pig.”

“You sorry bastard,” Ryan retorted.

His mother gasped and Timothy turned another shade of furious blue. “How dare you speak to me that way! Get out! Get the fuck out of my home!”

I stood slowly and retrieved our shirts. The motion brought Timothy’s pissed-off attention to me. He stormed past Ryan and glared down at me.

“Is this your fault? Did you turn my son into this faggot?”

“I did nothing to your son, sir.” I answered honestly.

“Are you smart mouthing me?” Timothy demanded. Before anyone could react, Timothy drew his arm back and bunched me in the face. I could have sworn I heard the sickening sound of bone crunching.

“Father, no!” Ryan yelled. He threw himself forward, but his mother caught his arm and tried to hold him back.

“Don’t interfere, Ryan,” his mother implored. “Please.”

“Leave him alone!” Ryan begged. His face was red and his cheeks were wet.

Timothy pulled back and hit me again. “You’re nothing but a perverted worm!”

Anger and hurt raged up in my chest, choking me as effectively as the warm blood flowing down my face. I glowered murderously up at the bigger man. “And you’re nothing better than a sad, scared little child.”

That earned me another slap.

“You don’t get to talk to me like that!” He roared.

“And what makes you think you can talk to me like this? Or even hit me? You’re not my father.”

“Well, young man, you’re father will definitely be notified that you’re a filthy cake boy.”

“My father already knows I prefer men,” I informed my boyfriend’s father.

“And he’s okay with that?” Timothy stared at me as if that was just bewildering and unthinkable.

“Yes. Because he’s more accepting and clearly a better man than you’ll ever be.” This was hard to say with dignity, since there was blood in my mouth and I was pretty sure I’d just felt a tooth wiggle. But I managed, ignoring Ryan’s stares and his frantic signaling to shut up.

Timothy punched me again, this time straight in the left eye. Yup, I was going to have a million bruises tomorrow.

Ryan wrenched free of his mom and ran to my side. He stood, blocking me from his father.

“Dad, plea—”

“Don’t call me that,” Timothy growled. “No son of mine will ever like it up the ass.”

Ryan’s breath cut at the verbal slap that wounded even me.

Ryan’s mom gasped and Timothy continued to glare at his son. “Now get out of my sight. You sicken me.”

Ryan turned and all but yanked me out of the room. We left to the angry shouts of Timothy and the loud sobs of his mom, Deloris.

 

My parents were all over us the second we walked into my house.

“Oh my god,” Mom gasped. “What happened?”

“My father happened.” Ryan muttered furiously.

My mom’s eyes widened and Dad stood up so fast it made me wonder if he was ever sitting on the sofa in the first place. “If Timothy did this to my Michael, I’ll kill him.”

“Be my guest,” Ryan muttered darkly.

“Why’d he beat up my poor baby?” Mom took my other arm, the one that wasn’t around Ryan, and led me to the couch.

“He saw us… making out,” I was forced to admit.

Ryan explained to my parents what his father had said to him and then to me. Why he’d beaten the crap out of me.

“Oh, poor darlings,” my mother cooed. “If you don’t have a place to say, Ryan, you’re welcome to stay here, with us.” She shot me a look. “I’m sure both the boys would like that.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude…”

“Oh, no, really. I insist. It’s no problem.”

With no place else to turn, Ryan was forced to give in. “Okay,” he agreed.

 

When Tanner got home from Mia’s dad dropping him off, he was alarmed to find his bloody brother and a distraught-looking Ryan in the foyer. “What… happened?”

“Ryan’s dad got unhappy at the sight of them kissing.” Mom explained, coming back in the room with a pack of ice and a wet wash cloth.

Fury swept across my twin’s face. “He had no right to beat up my brother like that!”

“He also disowned me,” Ryan added. “Kicked me out of the house.”

“He will be staying with us.” Dad said as he came back in with a bottle of pain medication.

Mom handed the wash cloth to Ryan. He gently scrubbed the blood off me.

“Are you just gonna let him get away with this?” Tanner asked, his voice rising and cracking in his incredulity. “He hurt me brother and my best friend!”

“He won’t get away with this. I promise.” Dad assured my twin. “He’ll pay dearly for it.”

“I’m so sorry, Mikey.” Ryan murmured.

“It’s not your fault.” I told him.

“He’s right, you know.” Mom told my boyfriend. “You’re not to blame here.”

“I know. It’s my hater father. But I still feel at fault. My parents got home early and they caught us in a kiss I’d instigated…”

“Ryan, honey, no one blames you.” Mom reassured him comfortingly. “Any friend of my boys is a friend of mine. And any boyfriend or girlfriend of my children is welcome in this family.”

“That’s damn right.” My father confirmed. “But I would like to talk about sleeping arrangements if you’re to stay here. You can have a choice between the guest room or Tanner’s room. I mean, while I approve of your relationship, I wouldn’t want you sleeping in the same room. That goes for Tan and Mia, as well.”

“I understand, sir.” Ryan said, nodding. “Thank you.”

Dad nodded. “But as long as my boys like you, we will welcome you.”

Mom nodded and squeezed my shoulder. “We should go to bed now. You need your rest, Mikey.”

I nodded.

“Tanner, could you grab some blankets for your brother? I think we shouldn’t move him.”

Mom asked. “We’ll set up a bed here on the couch.”

Tanner and Ryan go in search of sheets and return with full arms.

“What will I say to everyone at school?” I wondered.

“Nothing. Hold your head high and smile. Don’t let this beat-down bother you.” Tanner encouraged. “It will make you look strong and if this ever comes out or you decided to out yourself from the closet, people will remember how dignified you were and they won’t bully you.”

Ryan nodded. “That’s right. Be strong.”

Mom stood up. “We love you, baby. Remember that.”

Ryan patted my arm. “And you’ve got me for support.”

I smiled at him. “Promise?”

“Forever and always.”

 

At school, everyone kept asking what had happened to my face.

“Who hit you? I’ll teach them a lesson they won’t forget!” Ashton declared at our lunch table.

Thomas and Paige nodded.

“It’s fine.” I assured them. “My parents are taking care of it.”

“It’s not fine,” Ryan growled. “He’s a sick and twisted bastard.”

You know who did it?” My friends turned to question Ryan.

“My son-of-a-bitch father.” Ryan’s gaze darkened in fury.

“Why did Mr. Payne do that?”

Ryan shot me a look.

I took a deep breath. They were my friends and it was high time they knew. I guess this would be the ultimate challenge to test them… To see if they really were my true friends.

“I’m gay.”

Paige laughed. “Of course you are, honey.”

I stared. “You knew?”

“I can’t speak for those two idiots,” she jerked her thumb at Thomas and Ashton. “But I guessed.”

That made me wonder how many other people in our school had figured it out, as well.

Ashton nodded. “I wasn’t sure, but then I saw your exchange in English and I knew.”

I blushed. “You saw that?”

Ryan laughed.

“Hey, man. It’s okay. We love you for you, not what we thought you were.”

“Oh.”

“Did you really think we’d judge you?” Paige asked.

“Wait, whoa. Hold on a sec.” Thomas shook his head. “You’re gay?”

Ashton laughed. “Dude, you mean you didn’t know? Didn’t even suspect?”

Thomas shook his head. “Truthfully, no.”

“That is just sad, bro.” Ashton shook his head.

“Well, you just admitted to only figuring it out this week, Ash.” Thomas pointed out.

“Yes, but at least I suspected it. I just needed proof.”

Paige shook her head at their bickering. “I think it’s sweet you two are together.”

“Wait. How did you knew we were together? I didn’t tell you that.”

“I guessed.” Paige shrugged. “I have a knack for telling who’s dating and who’s not.”

“Oh.”

The bell rang.

 

Ryan had driven us to school and drove us back home. He parked in our driveway, but didn’t move to get out of the car. “Are you okay, Mikey?”

“Yeah, why?”

“No, I mean really.”

“Really, Ry. Forget about it. Your dad is a twisted loser. He—”

Ryan stopped me by leaning over and kissing me.

Aww…” Tanner sighed.

“Tan, what are you still doing here?” I asked.

Tanner shrugged. “Being happy for you.”

“Go inside, please. We’ll be right there.”

Tanner sighed. “Okay, fine.” He got out of the car and went into the house.

Ryan turned back to me. “I can’t stand the guilt of knowing my own father did this to you. Sometimes I think life would be easier without me.”

I put a hand on his chest, over where his heart was. “I love you, Ryan.”

Ryan pressed a kiss to my cheek. He moved to kiss my left eyelid and proceeded to press kisses into every bruise and cut his father had given me. “And I love you, Mikey. Don’t ever forget that.”

“I’ll never forget it.”

Ryan took my hand and kissed our entwined fingers. “You’ve showed me things in myself I’d never noticed before. Like how the world can be beautiful and I shouldn’t be afraid to chase after what I want.”

I smiled and pressed Ryan back against his door. “Let’s make the windows steam, shall we?”

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