Summerlove
by Chris J. Ueberall

 

Pairing: Ezra/Chris
Rating: PG
Category: Modern AU, Drama, First Time, Teenager Romance

Disclaimer: The characters from Mag7 belong to MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy. No copyright infringement intended, this story is strictly for fun, not profit.

Summary: I watched 'Grease' and this bunny popped up. I can offer no other excuse.

Notes: Thanks to my betas as always {waves to A.J. and AJ}, thanks to Bec for doing the 'Ezras_Littleverse' list. And to the writers of the 'Regents' series, which inspired the school.

 


Sophomore: J.D. (15)

Juniors: Ezra (16), Vin (16), Chris (17), Nathan (17)

Seniors: Buck (18), Josiah (18)


Summer loving had me a blast
Summer loving happened so fast

Standing in the shade of an old tree, Chris Larabee watched the comings and goings of Four Corners' students with a thoughtful expression.

In a way he was glad to be back, while most of the lessons didn't really hold his interest he did like to be with his friends, his 'gang' as they were called. And usually he really missed them over summer vacation, finding himself bored to death by his family. But this summer had been different. This summer had been a revelation. And the 17-year-old couldn't stop thinking about it and wishing that it had never ended.

The glimpse of a tall dark-haired boy with a red shirt beneath a brown leather jacket pulled Chris back into the present and with two large strides he walked out of the shadows to be seen better.

"Hey Chris!" Buck waved at his friend and then jogged towards him, greeting the blond teenager with a heavy pat onto his back. "How's it been?"

"Okay." Chris straightened his back carefully, not reacting to the pain, then returned the friendly greeting with equal force. Of course, his friend didn't wince, either. They were too cool and too macho to show that kind of weakness. "What about your holiday?"

"Great!" The slightly taller boy smiled broadly. "I'll move to California when school's over. Hollywood is just my kind of place."

"To become a dishwasher or what?" a younger voice asked teasingly, and J.D. hopped into sight.

"Very funny, kid," Buck growled, then grabbed the baseball cap the newcomer was wearing and held it above him, just out of his friend's reach.

"Give it back, Buck!" Giving up on jumping, J.D. stomped on the taller boy's foot and instantly got his cap back, when the pain from his foot made Buck totally forget about holding it up.

"You have a death wish or what?" Taking a menacing step towards the sophomore Buck found his path blocked by Chris and Vin, the latter who seemed to have appeared out of thin air.

"You started it, he won. Be a good loser, Buck," Chris said, and the long-haired teenager at his side underlined the words by nodding briskly.

"Okay. I won't kill the child," Buck said, already grinning again. When J.D. looked around his protectors at him he added: "yet."

J.D. just shrugged and grinned back, he had never been really afraid.

"Good stunt, J.D., where did you get the idea?" Vin wanted to know.

"Saw a guy doing it to Wicks to get his bag back. It worked. Then he kicked Wicks' sidekick and ran off. I just hope they don't get him. I mean, he's alone and he's kinda small."

"A freshman?" Chris asked, instantly ready to protect a younger boy from Four Corners' bullies.

The sophomore shook his head. "No, he's older. I think he's a junior, he's not in my classes as far as I could see."

"Hey, there're Josiah and Nathan," Buck pointed out and as one they headed over to their friends. Finally the 'Wolves' were together again.

"So how was your vacation really?" Vin asked, shifting on the banister he was sitting on, his back to the small river that crossed the high-school grounds.

Chris, who was leaning against the banister, looked up in surprise. Earlier he had stated that his holiday had been the same as always, and with Nathan, J.D. and Buck all eager to tell their tales, nobody had inquired further. But of course Vin had seen through his lie.

The long-haired boy had always been able to read him like a book. Looking around, making sure that no one was close enough to eavesdrop, Chris allowed a smile to lighten his usually brooding features.

"It was ... different," he finally said.

"Good different?" Vin's tone indicated that he knew the answer.

"Oh yes." The blond thought back. "I mean, it started out like usual. Mom and Dad meeting their friends and expecting me to mix with the local youth." He grimaced at the mere thought. He had never been able to stand the high society girls of Eagle Bend and positively hated the male teenagers and older ones, who all believed themselves above the average crowd. Chris had always found them to be a crowd, but average would have been an improvement.

The echo of his last thought widened his smile even further, for though it had been his thoughts, the wording had been somebody else's.

"Hey, I'm still here," Vin reminded him. Hitting him on the shoulder. "What's got you grinning like you hid Buck's clothes after swimming?"

Meeting the blue eyes of his best friend, Chris whispered: "Ezra."

Raising an eyebrow, Vin leaned closer. "Ezra? Care to explain?"

"Just a boy I met in Eagle Bend."

"Sure." Now Vin was grinning broadly. "Tell me more about this boy you just met."

Chris sighed and turned to look at the river. He trusted Vin to look out for anyone coming close enough to hear their conversation. Of all the friends he had, he had only confided in Vin that maybe he was gay. Might be gay. Maybe? He wasn't sure. Probably more on the bi side anyway. After all, he was interested in Ella. And there were some girls on TV he found pretty hot.

"Come on, I'd like to hear the story before I've got my diploma," Vin nagged.

"Okay, okay, hold your horses, cowboy." Chris tried to get his memories in chronological order. "I was on my way to one of my ... favorite spots. Good place to hide, no one bothering you there, it's too far away from the local attractions. Nice view too, the city on one side, the ocean on the other. Planned to stay there for a couple of hours, reading, listening to some music. You know." He shrugged, a little embarrassed about his uncool way of spending evenings.

"Hey, I'm writing poems," Vin reminded him. "You sure could find me in that spot with a book in hand. And a pen probably. And my walkman of course." They grinned at each other.

It was their secret 'vices' that made them the close friends they were. Heaven forbid that anyone else knew that the highly aggressive and dangerous Chris Larabee was actually a bookworm. Or that Kevin-I'm-not-reading-that-stuff-aloud wrote poetry. They would never live it down.

Buck of course knew that Chris's collection of books could rival a small library, and had commented on it more than once. But he had yet to realize that if asked, Chris would usually prefer sitting in his room reading a book to sitting in a club checking out the girls.

And it didn't bear thinking what Buck would do if he ever found out that Chris was actually checking out the boys as well. He was sure Buck would not only end their friendship, but would probably beat him to a pulp for being a pervert. It was one of the reasons he had never told him and why he was carefully playing at being as macho as possible.

"You were saying you went to that pretty spot of yours," Vin's words gently brought him back to the subject.

"Yeah. Was sure nobody would be there. But somebody was. Kinda killed my good mood in an instant."

"Yeah, the plans of mice and men ..." Vin grinned.

Chris laughed. "You would've liked him. He looked at me, at my bag and face, and said exactly that ..."


"The best laid plans of mice and men. I guess you planned on having this beautiful place for yourself, too, am I right?"

The smooth Southern voice washed over him soothing his angry disappointment before it could really rise. "Yeah," he admitted, not sure what to do now that his plan for the evening had been destroyed.

"Maybe we could share this place? I promise not to be intrusive."

Chris didn't think it was a good idea, after all, he always went to this place to be alone, that was the whole point, being alone.

He looked the other boy over. He wore white jeans and a gray woolen sweatshirt and seemed to be slightly shorter than Chris. He had short dark auburn hair and lively green eyes, which looked up questioningly.

The stranger sat on a big soft looking blanket, a heavy book in front of him, a walkman and a bottle of water leaning against a black leather bag. Whatever the boy was, he wasn't a threat that was sure.

"What are you reading?" Chris asked, sitting down on the blanket. He had never bothered with bringing one along, but decided it was a good idea.

"'Lord of the Rings' by Tolkien," the boy said, lifting the volume so that the blond could see its cover. "And you?"

For a moment Chris felt shocked. How did the stranger know that he had a book, too? But then he realized that it was a logical assumption on the other's part. What else would Chris be doing here on his own?

"'Sherlock Holmes'," he admitted, and pulled the book from his bag. He saw something flicker across the boy's face and felt immediately defensive. "Any problem with that?" he wanted to know.

The other boy shook his head. "No. I just prefer something not so much on the light side."

Chris felt his anger rise, so the guy thought that he was stupid, because he was reading ... He didn't finish the thought as the rest of the boy's words penetrated his mind.

"You'd have to take the whole collection of Doyle's work with you to last through the summer. 'The Rings' on the other hand is rather heavy to carry around, but lasts longer."

Relaxing, Chris nodded. "Do you like it?" he asked, and simultaneously started to rummage in his bag for his coke.

"Yes, I do. Though I admit, Tolkien's style is trying at times. He could have cut some scenes shorter."

"But then you wouldn't know what to read the rest of the summer," Chris reminded him, grinning.

"True." Green eyes sparkled at him. Suddenly the other boy straightened up. "I'm Ezra by the way," he said, extending a hand.

"Chris." They shook hands.

"So where are you?" Chris wanted to know, looking at the other's book.

"They've just reached Bree."

"So you just started."

"I read the whole introduction first," Ezra admitted.

"The whole thing about the different kinds of Hobbits! Why? You don't need it." Chris was baffled, he had skipped that part almost totally.

"To make the book last, of course."

The way Ezra looked at him, his face a picture of stressed dignity, like one of those English butlers on TV who had just explained the obvious to a stupid inspector, had Chris howling with laughter.

Soon enough the other boy joined in.


"Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful friendship," Vin's voice cut through Chris's reverie.

"It was. Only got through the first chapter of my book that day. We did more talking than reading." Chris grinned. As far as he knew Ezra was probably still reading 'The Lord of the Rings', they had found each other much more interesting than any books.

"So's he older?" his friend wanted to know.

"Nope. Sixteen like you. But he's been around more than I'll probably ever be. His mother's always traveling from one end of the world to the other. Though she doesn't often take him with her, but he never knows in advance where he'll spend his holidays."

"Sounds cool." Vin jumped from the banister.

Chris nodded, then frowned. "But he didn't seem too happy about it. Doesn't quite get along with his mom I guess."

His friend just shrugged. Living with his grandparents Vin was never very comfortable talking about other's parents. Now leaning with his back against the banister, Vin gave his slightly older friend a nudge with the shoulder.

"What happened then? What did you do? Come on, tell uncle Vin."

"If you were my uncle I wouldn't tell you the time of the day," Chris snorted, shoving the other boy away.

Grinning, Vin took his place back. "Okay, I'm not your uncle, just your best friend. I'm dying here of curiosity. So speak up!"

"Okay, okay." Chris grinned. "We didn't actually do much. Okay, we did a lot, just nothing special. Just hanging around, you know. Swimming, climbing, talking. Wandering through Eagle Bend. You know, I saw more of that place this summer than all the years before combined. I never knew they had so many little bookstores or antique shops. My parents never knew what hit them when I gave them my bags. My father almost broke his arm as he tried to lift the one with the books."

Vin chuckled. "He probably wondered if you robbed a library."

"Yeah, kinda." Chris smiled and turned around, so that now they both stood with their backs to the river, their arms almost touching.

"Bought some books of poems, too. Brought one along. Ezra liked them, thought you might, too."

"Thanks."

For a moment they watched the campus in comfortable silence. Then Vin's curiosity got the better of him.

"And ... did something else happen?" he asked, not looking at his friend.

"Something else?" the blond echoed. "What do you mean?"

Vin rolled his eyes. "Don't be dense. You know what I mean. Did you two ... you know ... did you get together, really together? Had sex?" He felt his cheeks burning as he rushed through the last part of the question.

"You look like a tomato," Chris commented chuckling.

"I like to see you asking that," Vin replied, inwardly cursing his tendency to blush.

"I wouldn't ask such a thing in the first place."

"Of course you would." Vin hit his best friend not too gently on the chest. "Tell! Did you or did you not?"

"Yes. No. Kinda." Now it was Chris's turn to blush.

"Oh, very precise. Next you'll tell me you got a little bit pregnant." Laughing at the other boy's discomfort, Vin patted his friend's stomach. "Second month is it?"

The blond growled and shoved the offending hand away. "I'm not pregnant, you idiot." He looked around, checking if anyone had come closer, but they were still pretty isolated. "I meant we didn't do much, not all the way. Just kissing and stroking and stuff."

By now Chris would truly have done any tomato proud, but Vin wasn't calling him on that. He knew that the other was embarrassed as hell and truth be told Vin was as well. But more than that he was curious.

"And did you like it?" he asked in a whisper.

The older boy nodded.

"Then you're really gay, huh?"

Chris sighed. "Guess we can agree that I'm bi."

"So how did you two ... get together. I mean that way. Did you ask him, or what?" Vin was pretty impressed that Chris had actually had the courage to kiss another boy. Vin hadn't yet found it in him to even try to kiss a girl.

"No, I didn't ask him. Kinda found out that he was gay."

"You could tell from what he said?"

Chris shook his head. "No. I found out. At least now I know that jerks can be good for something ..."


Taking two steps at a time, Chris all but flew down the stairs to the beach. Why his father of all days had to take today for his annual father-son-talk was beyond him. And for the first time it had been he who had remembered in mid-talk that he had another appointment to keep and left. The expression on his father's face had been priceless and Chris just wished that he had thought of the whole scenario long ago. But before he had never had another appointment to keep. At least none as important as this date.

'Date.' He blinked and nearly missed a step. He was supposed to meet with Ezra on the beach, it wasn't a date. Not really. Then again, if it had been Ella waiting for him, he would think of it as a date. Just because Ezra was a boy .... 'Face it, Christopher, you want it to be a date. You want him to be more than a buddy.'

Slowing down to avoid a collision with two women, Chris took the time to scan the area, just in case Ezra was in the vicinity. He didn't see him and hoped that meant that his friend was still waiting at their meeting place.

Jogging along the boardwalk Chris admitted that he seemed to have fallen in love with the other boy. At least that would explain the strange feelings he got whenever Ezra laughed or smiled at him.

Sometimes it was as if a fist was pressing around his heart, other times there were those needles in his stomach, not unlike the sensation of getting the blood back into your arm after you've slept on it.

Then there was the strong urge to reach out and touch Ezra, his arm, his shoulder - to be close to him. Not to mention the goosebumps that ran down his whole body when they actually touched, which happened frequently, but not often enough as far as Chris was concerned.

If those weren't the symptoms of love then the pope was a girl. 'Please be there,' he prayed as he climbed over a barrier of rocks that separated that part of the beach from the main tourist area.

Finally he saw Ezra, standing exactly where they'd said they'd meet, but he wasn't alone.

In front of him stood Ken, Ed and Owen - three of the 'Miamis' as Chris had dubbed them, boys of their age who dressed like they'd watched too many 'Miami Vice' episodes, but couldn't make up their mind if they wanted to be drug dealers or Don Johnson.

Chris had never liked them much, but for some reason they thought he was cool, and so they had gotten along quite well. Of course the moment one of them shoved Ezra away from his blanket and the others began to circle around him that changed. Hot fury pulsed through his body as he made his way down the rocks.

Chris noted with pride that his friend wasn't showing any fear, instead of trying to get away, Ezra just stood there holding his ground. Still, he was only one against three. Not good odds. But the odds were about to change.

Hurrying towards the group he arrived just in time to stop Ken - the oldest of the group - from hitting Ezra. Grabbing the other seventeen-year-old's wrist Chris pressed with all his strength, hoping to make an impression. From the pain on Ken's face he knew it worked. Letting go he stepped towards Ezra, so that they were now standing side by side, showing a united front.

"Chris," Ed asked, disbelief in his voice, "you're not siding with him, are you? I mean, don't you know what he is?"

"He's my friend," he replied, certain that they would back off now. But he was wrong.

"Bet you wouldn't say that if you knew he was a fag," Ken said, rubbing his wrist. "Bet he never told you, did he? Maybe he's drooling over you all the time and you didn't notice."

It was a good thing that he was angry or otherwise he might have laughed - probably hysterically, but it was somehow funny that Ken tried to shock him with that idea, when it was something that Chris fiercely wished to be true. He looked at Ezra.

Ezra had his hands in fists and his expression was furious, but he didn't speak and neither did he meet Chris's gaze. Obviously Ezra wouldn't speak up or ask for help, but he didn't need to, Chris knew what he had to do anyway.

"Frankly I don't care. He's my friend and if you have a problem with him you have a problem with me. Get it?" He looked coldly at Ken and then at Owen, hoping they would back down, because he really wasn't sure he could take on both of them and win.

"You a homo, too?" Ed squeaked, then took a step back when Chris glared at him.

"I'll give you a homo," he growled, almost sending the sixteen-year-old running.

"Hey, hey, Chris, it's alright," Owen said, speaking up for the first time. "But you'll regret it, word'll get around."

Chris shrugged. "I don't care what you think, I don't care what the others think." He took a threatening step towards Owen. "So fuck off now!" He really wanted them to go. He wanted to be alone with Ezra, talk about what happened, find out if it was true, if Ezra really was a ... was like him.

"Okay, okay." Holding up his hands as if at gunpoint, Owen backed away, followed closely by Ken and soon passed by Ed. Chris never took his eyes off the three, silently urging them on to walk and then to climb faster.

Eventually they were gone from sight and he turned towards Ezra, who was rolling up the blanket. Chris really couldn't fault him for that, somehow this place wasn't as nice anymore as it had been before.

"I'm sorry," Ezra said suddenly, not looking up from the task of gathering his things.

"Why?"

"For dragging you into this," the younger boy said, grabbing his bag and blanket. "They'll believe you're gay now, you know." He straightened up and finally met his gaze.

"I know, but like I said, I don't care. And I didn't see you dragging me, looked more like I was jumping in," Chris said lightly. He really didn't feel it was a big deal, as far as he was concerned no one in Eagle Bend was worth his notice, and what the people here thought of him didn't faze him in the least.

"What if it were true?" Ezra asked, slowly walking away from him.

"You being gay, you mean?" Chris asked, catching up and falling into step with his friend. Ezra nodded.

"Doesn't matter." Daringly he patted the younger boy's shoulder. "You're still my friend."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah."

Seeing a relieved smile blossom on Ezra's face, set the needles loose and Chris had to breathe deeply to get any air past the lump in his throat. Both reactions told him clearly that it did matter, mattered a lot, actually. Just not the way Ezra assumed.

By now they had left the beach, they didn't take the way Chris had come, but followed a small path that led into the hills and woods and, eventually, to the spot where they had first met.

When he was sure that they couldn't be seen from anywhere and that no one was nearby, Chris stopped and asked: "And? Are you?"

For a while Ezra didn't answer, then he nodded. "I think so, yes." He scrutinized the ground between them. "I ... I don't care much about girls. I mean, I like some, but not ... like that. I don't want to touch them or anything." He paused and in a much quieter tone added: "But some boys I'd like to touch. So I guess I'm gay."

Chris felt as if he had to move a whole mountain to breathe, as he gathered his courage for the next question. "Do you like ... would you like to touch me?"

Now Ezra looked up, green eyes widened in surprise and ... fear?

'Damn!' Chris reached out and grabbed his friend's shoulders before he could bolt. In his grip he felt Ezra stiffen as if he expected to be hurt. He let go as if burned. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Didn't mean to scare you."

"You didn't," the younger boy replied briskly, but his defensive stance belied his words. "What if and I say if I wanted to touch you?"

'Don't mess this up, Christopher,' he told himself, wondering how he could best get his point across without sounding too eager. When nothing came to his mind and he realized that Ezra was slowly backing away from him, he blew caution to the wind and rushed out: "Then I'd be happy it wasn't just me." Anxiously he waited for Ezra's reaction to that.

He didn't have to wait long. Surprise and disbelief chased each other over his friend's expressive features, then - for what seemed an eternity - Ezra looked at him intensely.

'Laser beams have nothing on those eyes,' Chris thought, hoping the other boy would see that he truly meant it.

It seemed he did. "You too?" Ezra whispered.

Chris nodded.

"You sure?"

Again he could only nod, his eyes glued to Ezra's hand that was slowly moving towards his face. And then he felt fingers on his cheek, caressing it. His body was flushed with goosebumps and he liked it. Meeting Ezra's gaze he realized that his friend had come closer, their faces were only inches apart.

Carefully this time he grabbed Ezra's shoulder then slid his hand up to his neck. Green eyes closed in anticipation as Chris leaned forward and gently touched the other's lips with his ...


"Earth to Chris. Earth to Chris. Somebody in there?"

Chris jerked away as knuckles knocked against his forehead pulverizing the mental image his memory had brought up.

"Are you finished?" Angrily he glared at Vin.

"Sorry, cowboy." Vin had stepped back and looked actually apologetic. "But you were really lost in there, and you started to have a really goofy grin on your face. Seemed you were going a little bit far on memory lane."

"You asked me, remember?" Chris replied, angry now with himself for losing it like that.

"Yeah, I know. And I don't mind. Seems you had it really bad for that guy. I'm almost envious; but Nathan's heading our way, so I'd say the rest has to wait." Looking in the direction Vin was pointing, and seeing his roommate waving to them to come over, Chris had to admit his friend was right.

"Wasn't much more anyway," he murmured under his breath as they walked towards Nathan.

"Yeah, and the pope is a woman," Vin commented, bumping his shoulder against Chris's. "Don't think we're finished, I want to know everything."

"Forget it." Chris shoved him back. "If you want a sex story, go ask Buck."

Falling in step again Vin rolled his eyes. "That would be way too much information. Besides I'd like the truth for a change."

"What truth?" Nathan asked as they reached him.

"The truth of what happens between Buck and his girls," Vin explained not missing a beat. "I'm sure most of his stories are pure fantasy."

"We all know that," Nathan agreed.

Chris grinned. "Yeah, we do. But does Buck?"

"Probably not," Vin said, laughing. "Best not destroy his illusions though or the big bad senior might beat us up."

"Speaking of beating up," Nathan piped in, leading them towards the school, "J.D. is off to get Josiah and Buck, seems Wicks is beating on that new boy again."

"Sounds like Wicks needs a new lesson," Chris growled and quickened his step. "I'm more than ready to teach it."

His friends nodded; putting Four Corners' bullies in their place was just the right way to start school.

The moment they rounded the corner they could see where the action was, the crowd of students was a dead giveaway. None of them slowed his stride as they walked closer and immediately a path was cleared for them. In the center they saw a boy, his back towards them, just picking himself off the ground, while Wicks and two of his sidekicks stood there obviously taunting him.

Taking the situation in, Chris realized that Buck and Josiah were already there holding the three seniors of Wicks' sidekicks in check.

Good. That meant Wicks was his. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Nathan leave to help out Josiah just as J.D. was coming up from the sidelines to stand beside him and Vin. He grinned. Their youngest had courage, no doubt about that.

Of course Wicks had seen them and immediately his attention was drawn from his 'victim' towards the 'Wolves'.

"Ah, look who's coming to rescue the damsel in distress," Wicks greeted him. "Should have known that's your type."

Snickers, not only from the sidekicks, but also from some of the bystanders. Chris felt a sudden chill run down his body. That wasn't one of his enemy's usual lines, this hit too close to home. Did Wicks know he was ... Did he have friends in Eagle Bend?

Fear was coiling inside his guts, Chris wanted to lash out, hurt - diminish the danger. Without consciously realizing it he was suddenly in front of Wicks, shoving him aggressively backwards.

"I don't care what you think!" he growled, not giving the older boy a chance to get his balance back. "You know the rules! Don't mess with anybody, or I mess with you." Finally stepping back, Chris never stopped glaring, wishing he were Cyclops and able to pulverize people with just a look.

It took Wicks a moment to get his composure back, but when he did, he smiled coldly. "I don't think you know what you're protecting here, Larabee," he said, pointing over Chris' shoulder. Chris didn't look, didn't need to, he knew that J.D. and Vin were with the new boy, helping him, protecting him.

"He's a faggot, a sissy. You really want someone like him here? What if he's after your little buddy? Or gets the hots for you? You'll still protect him then? I for one don't want him close to me."

"Why? Think it's contagious?" Buck piped in, and Chris had never been more grateful for it, for his own mind - it seemed - had just totally blanked out.

"Or are you afraid he might get the hots for you?" Buck asked sarcastically, appearing at his friend's side. Immediately Wicks began to retreat.

"If that is the reason for the hostility, I can assure you that you're in no danger of being molested by me," a Southern accented voice said from behind them, paralyzing Chris to the spot, while memory carried him back to Eagle Bend, remembering a blue sky, a beach, laughter and fun.

"I have taste and certain standards and you're light-years away from measuring up to them," the voice continued and Chris came back, his mind stuck on the thought that it just couldn't be. It. Just. Couldn't.

Laughter and snickers, this time the joke was on Wicks, who didn't know how to counter that.

Then Josiah stepped in, putting a hand on Wicks' shoulder, turning him towards his senior friends and away from the 'Wolves' and the new guy. "Since your fears have been laid to rest now, I think we can end this gathering and do something more productive ... elsewhere."

The last was underlined by a stern look around, successfully breaking up the crowd. It didn't take more than two minutes and suddenly the 'Wolves' were the only ones still lingering around the newest addition to Four Corners.

Mustering up his courage, Chris slowly turned around and found himself looking into familiar green eyes. Eyes that seemed to look straight into his soul - asking questions he couldn't answer, asking for directions he couldn't give. He couldn't speak, couldn't think. He just stared.

"You okay, buddy?" Buck inquired, stepping in front of the new guy. "You took some nasty hits there."

"I'm fine. I can take quite a lot, but thanks for asking. I'm Ezra by the way." The new boy held out his hand and a smile spread over his face as it was taken without hesitation.

"I'm Buck," the senior said, and began to introduce the others by pointing them out. "The little one over there is J.D.. He told us you needed help."

"Hey! I'm not little!"

Ezra smiled at the sophomore. "I'm in your debt then, those bullies were slightly outnumbering me."

"Jeez, you call six to one slightly?" J.D.'s eyes widened in awe. Ezra just shrugged.

"The guy in desperate need of a haircut is Vin," Buck continued, ignoring the finger salute the comment earned him. "Nathan over there is our quota Afro-American."

The boy in question just rolled his eyes at that.

"The left over from Woodstock is Josiah and ..."

"Buck, I seriously doubt you even know what Woodstock was," Josiah interrupted before his roommate could turn to the last of their gang.

"Of course I know," Buck said with pathos, "Woodstock's the little bird buddy of Snoopy." His friends groaned and shook their heads at his answer. The senior grinned down at Ezra. "I know my peanuts," he stage-whispered, drawing a giggle from the newcomer. "And Mister Color-blind here is Chris."

Having dreaded his turn from the moment the introductions began, Chris almost missed the slighting at his preference to wear mostly black. Almost. But then he realized it gave him a good out of actually reacting to Ezra and so he glared at his oldest friend, pointedly not looking at the boy beside him. "Cut the crap, Buck. If anyone here is color-blind then it's you, nobody else would wear a bright yellow Hawaiian shirt under a brown leather jacket."

"You're just jealous because I didn't bring one for you," Buck countered. "The girls loved it. Couldn't get it off me fast enough. Leila for ex...."

A chorus of "TMI! TMI!" interrupted him. The senior shrugged good-naturedly. "You're missing a good story."

"No we aren't," Chris disagreed, his attention apparently on Buck, while he was watching Ezra out of the corner of his eye. The smaller boy had turned around again and was now walking towards Vin and J.D..

Chris sighed inwardly. He knew he had hurt Ezra, and he didn't mean to do it, but he just didn't know how to handle the circumstances. It was a classic 'be careful what you wish for' situation. He had wanted to see Ezra again, but it had never occurred to him he could meet him here. In Four Corners.

This wasn't Eagle Bend where Chris didn't care what people thought of him. This was his school, where he still had two more years to go. Here he had friends. Friends whose opinions mattered. And although Buck had acted surprisingly un-homophob - not at all what Chris had expected - he just wasn't ready for outing himself here. He admired Ezra for taking the label in stride, but he couldn't do it. Not yet anyway.

His gaze was caught by Vin's and he could see confusion and anger burning in his best friend's eyes. There was no question that Vin had realized that the new boy and Chris' summerlove were the same guy, and obviously his friend didn't like how he'd treated Ezra.

He couldn't fault him for that, he didn't like it himself.

Their silent communication was interrupted, when Ezra began talking to Vin. "You wouldn't by any chance be Kevin Tanner, would you?"

"It's Vin Tanner," Vin amended automatically, looking away from Chris to meet Ezra's eyes. "Why?"

"It's just that, if I understood Principal Travis correctly, I'm to share your humble abode and I hoped you could guide me towards it."

Vin grinned. "No problem. Just follow me." He liked the way the guy talked, liked the mischief he saw lurking in his smile. It would be fun to have him as a roommate. He remembered the things Chris had told him about his boyfriend, and knew without a doubt that they would get along. For the first time he wouldn't have to hide his poems, not with Ezra liking poetry, too. And with their room then being a kind of macho-free zone, maybe Chris would find the courage to talk to Ezra eye-to-eye.

Vin sighed inwardly as he began walking towards the dormitory, the others close behind. It wasn't that he didn't understand Chris's fears, he just thought that his friend was exaggerating. Ezra surely didn't expect Chris to walk hand in hand over the schoolyard with him or give a wedding announcement, so what could it have hurt to admit that they knew each other? At least, to the 'Wolves'. But no, Chris was playing total denial-guy. Somebody should kick him for it.

"And this is where we leave you juniors to find your own way," Josiah announced. He nodded towards Ezra, then left with Buck and J.D. in tow.

"For reasons known only to the powers-that-be, they have the seniors and sophomores sharing one wing and the juniors and freshmen another," Nathan explained, when Ezra looked after them in surprise.

"So every year you find yourself in another wing," Vin piped in. "And that leads to a lot of confusion, especially at the beginning of a year." Vin grinned. "It's quite funny, actually."

"Speak for yourself. I could live without it. Every two minutes someone knocks on your door and asks if you know where his room is." Nathan shook his head.

"If they knock," Chris added.

"Right, if they do." By now they were heading up the stairs.

"Why don't you just lock the door?" Ezra asked looking at no one in particular.

"I would, but ..." Chris began, noticing with relief that he could talk to Ezra as if he was just another guy, wondering belatedly why he had thought he couldn't, "... Nate here ..."

"It's against the houserules," Nathan pointed out. "You're only allowed to lock your room when nobody is in there. In case of a fire or emergency you have to be able to get out fast."

"Aha." Ezra nodded, sending Chris a sympathetic look.

"And here's where we part with the L and J surnames," Vin said. "They stay here while we live on top of the world."

"Right where we belong," Ezra commented, already taking the first steps.

Chris hesitated for a moment then called to him. "Ez!"

Pausing in midstep, Ezra turned around slowly and looked down. "Chris?"

Their gazes locked and for a moment nothing existed but them. Chris tried to put everything he felt in his expression - that he was sorry for being an idiot, that he missed him, that he was afraid, that he loved him, that summer was over.

"Welcome to Four Corners," he said, hoping the other would understand.

Ezra nodded, acceptance in his green eyes. Summer was over, but they could still be friends.

He watched as Ezra climbed the last stairs where Vin was patiently waiting. Just as the younger boys were leaving his sight, their voices drifted down the staircase.

"What do you think is the most romantic time of the year?" Ezra inquired.

Vin laughed. "Summer, right?"

"Somehow I expected you to say that." You could easily hear the amusement in Ezra's voice as he spoke. "But no. I think it's autumn. Fall. And I plan to prove it."

Turning towards his room Chris couldn't help but smile brightly, just as butterflies started a wild dance in his stomach. This school year promised to be ... interesting.

It turned cold that's where it ends
So I told him we'd still be friends
Then we made our true love vows

THE END

9 June 2003
Song: Grease - Summer Nights (more or less)

 

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