He rolled on his belly and considered putting on his headphones to drown out what was coming, but he decided against it. The last time he'd forgotten and left his door unlocked. He hadn't been able to slip past Jake when he came in, and he'd ended up with a loose tooth. Mom had cried. She always cried, but she never did a damn thing about it.
Dwayne waited until he could make out what was being yelled downstairs.
Jake's voice. "It's a present for you, I told you that!"
Mom's voice. "Oh, right, Jake! It's not my size, it's not NEARLY my size."
"I thought maybe it'd give you some inspiration to lose a little bit of that blubber."
"God, you're cruel! I've NEVER been able to fit into a size five, and you know it. I'm not fat, I'm just not built like a Barbie doll, and don't you fucking DARE think you're going to distract me like that! Look at that! Red satin and black lace? Christ, Jake, I would've thought you'd have better sense than to try to convince me that damn teddy was for me. I'd never wear something that sleazy in a million years."
"Well, maybe if you WOULD I wouldn't have to look for someone who DID."
There was an outraged shriek.
He got out of bed, grabbing for his leather jacket. *Shit, I may have left it too long.* In the hall he flipped the hasp and snapped the padlock shut, locking his door. Mom had started to pitch a bitch about that, but when she saw what Jake did to his stereo after they had the argument about his taste in music, she'd quieted down and bought a new sound system, including the earphones.
Dwayne pulled on his jacket and carefully eased his way halfway downstairs. He cocked his head toward the sound of angry voices. They were in the living room. If he was quick and quiet, he should be able to make it out the back door.
He tiptoed down to the hall, wishing Mom had put in a runner instead of going for the bare, natural wood look. He'd almost made it to the kitchen when Jake came out into the hallway, yelling, "...got a right to a little happiness, don't I? I work my ass off to provide for you and that brat, and I get nothing but..." He caught sight of Dwayne. "You! What've you got your coat on for, huh? You think you're going somewhere, punk?"
Dwayne bolted. He didn't bother to shut the kitchen door behind himself, because he could hear Jake coming behind him. Luckily the homecoming booze on top of whatever he'd drunk on the plane back from Chicago messed with his equilibrium just enough to make him slip on the kitchen tiles. By the time he'd scrambled up and gotten outside Dwayne had mounted his Harley, jammed the key home, and revved the engine.
It was close. Jake's clawed fingers swiped the air less than a foot behind him, but Dwayne made it down to the street and opened it up. The old fart up the block, out watering his flowerbeds, got a good show of his drunken and disheveled neighbor standing in the street, cursing and shaking his fist after his motorcycle riding punk son.
*Great, Jake, just great. Didn't take you long to get us a reputation in our new neighborhood, did it? What comes next? The neighbors calling the cops over 'domestic disputes', or Mom starting us on the round of the different emergency rooms so they don't ask questions after seeing us too many times?*
Dwayne was tired of moving. Yeah, Jake kept getting 'promotions', but Dwayne knew the real reason they kept moving--Jake never wanted to stay in one place long enough for his colleagues or neighbors to get to know him, and figure out what a mess his home life was.
They had moved four... no, five times in the last two years. Last time his school records hadn't even had time to catch up with him before Jake was dragging them off again. Mom was still trying to locate them, and school was going to start next month.
Now THAT was something Dwayne was dreading. He never fit in. He didn't dress right or look right to be accepted by the rich kids, and the poor kids either hated him or sucked up to him. Since Dwayne didn't feel like being used, that meant that he usually didn't have any friends wherever he went.
And this last place... Eesh. Santa Carla. Snoozeville. Well, except that it WAS on the ocean, and there was the boardwalk. That was pretty cool.
Dwayne headed for the boardwalk now. He'd been spending more and more of his time there the last couple of months. He'd seen a couple of places like this before, but it was always in areas where weather forced them to close down during the winter months, but he'd found out that this one was year round.
It was the middle of the week, so the place wasn't quite as teeming as it usually was on the weekends, but there were still a lot of people riding the rides, browsing the shops, or just hanging out. Dwayne parked in front of one of the busier places, Max's Video Shop, in hopes that his ride would be safe.
As Dwayne dismounted, he casually glanced through the front window, scanning the store's interior as his heart thumped just a little harder in anticipation. He felt disappointed when all he saw was a few families rummaging in the kid's section and one beer-bellied, obvious non-athlete in the sports section. *He isn't there tonight.*
Then the door to the back room opened and three men came out. Dwayne scarcely noticed the older man and the boy in the long black leather coat, but the blonde boy who walked with them captured his gaze. The other boy said something to him, and he threw his head back, laughing, the bright florescent lights glinting on his pale blonde hair as it flipped back over his shoulders.
At the front, the older man peeled off and went behind the counter. Judging from the way the clerk was listening to him and nodding, he had to be Max. The two boys leaned on the counter, talking to each other. The one he was interested in had his back to the door. His jacket ended just at his hips, almost as if it was meant to draw attention to the tight, denim-coated curves of his ass.
Long Coat looked past his friend, and his eyebrows rose. He nodded slightly toward Dwayne, and Leather Jacket twisted his head, glancing back over his shoulder, his glance landing on Dwayne. Their eyes locked.
Dwayne felt the blood rising in his cheeks. He quickly turned and started down the boardwalk, weaving his way through the tourists with no idea of where he was going. *Christ, caught staring. That's a good way to get my ass whipped. Bad enough being gay, Dwayne, but if you're an OBVIOUS gay, you have REAL trouble, even if this IS California.*
He went into a coffee bar and ordered a large cappuccino, then took it to a corner booth. The fluorescents over that particular area was on the fritz, giving only a half-power glow that flickered and buzzed. He settled himself into the shadows, noting that he was feeling increasingly at home in the dark these days. Anyway, this was a good vantage point to people watch--he had a view of the entire room. He also found that he was doing a lot of this, too, these days--sitting on the side and watching the rest of the world.
The bell over the door jangled, and he looked up to see the pair from the video store entering. He quickly half-turned, moving deeper into the booth and putting his shoulder to the room and bending over his cup, as if engrossed in it. *Please, oh please, oh please. I SO do not need any shit tonight. Let them just be after a cup of coffee.*
"Hey. Mind if we sit with you?" He looked up. Leather Coat was standing over him, smiling down. Dwayne glanced past him. Leather Jacket was standing right behind him, his hands tucked in his pockets. Neither one of them were carrying a cup.
Dwayne's eyes flicked over the room. There were at least a half-dozen empty tables and booths. "There are a lot of open places." The boy nodded agreeably. Dwayne hesitated. They were both smiling at him. They didn't LOOK hostile. Of course they could just be good actors, but... Damn, it had been so long since he could just hang out with someone. He tilted his head toward the other seat. "Sure, go ahead."
Long Coat held out his hand. "David."
Dwayne pumped his hand. "Dwayne." *God, he's got cold hands."
As David slid into the booth on the other side, Leather Jacket offered his hand. "Paul."
They shook hands, and Dwayne thought. *Both of them. They feel like they've been holding cold cans of soda, or something.* While he was thinking this, Paul quickly sat down beside him. Dwayne regarded him in surprise, having expected him to sit beside David. Something in the way Paul smiled back at him told Dwayne that the other boy had known that.
"We thought you were gonna come into the video store back there," David said. "You certainly looked like you were looking for something in particular."
Dwayne shrugged. "I don't pick up too many videos. We only have a VCR in the living room, and I couldn't watch what I like down there."
"Yeah?" Paul casually propped his arm on the back of the seat, behind Dwayne. His smile was teasing. "Mommy and Daddy don't want to let you watch the skin shows?"
Dwayne felt himself flushing. "No, I'm not really interested in those."
"No?" David sat forward, propping his elbows on the table, clasping his hands. "Damn, I thought every guy your age wanted a chance to see every pair of boobs he could."
Dwayne scowled. "You're not that much older than me."
There was a dark, amused glint in David's eyes. "Don't be too sure about that."
"What DO you like to watch, then?" Paul asked.
"Horror," Dwayne answered promptly. "The gorier, the better. The Hammer movies are just a start.
"And Mommy and Daddy don't like them?" David asked.
"Quit saying that, will you? I'm not some little kid. No, my Mom only wants to watch those stupid, weepy women's movies, and Jake only likes dumbass movies with crashing cars and explosions."
"Jake? You call your dad by his first name?" David sounded curious.
"Jake is NOT my father," Dwayne said flatly. "My sire ran out on us when I was about three, and he sent divorce papers when I was seven. Jake is Mom's second husband."
"Doesn't sound like a warm and fuzzy sort of relationship," commented David.
"I really don't feel like talking about him," Dwayne said shortly.
David held up his hands placatingly. "Okay, okay. You live in Santa Carla?"
"We moved here at the beginning of the summer." He snorted softly. "Maybe we'll stay long enough to get everything unpacked this time."
They talked for a while. Dwayne learned that David and Paul lived together--alone. That impressed Dwayne. "It must be nice, not having to answer to anyone, not having the fucking rules and restrictions. The only time I have any peace at all is when Jake is out of town. Thankfully, that's A LOT. I only have to put up with him about ten, twelve days a month, but believe me, he tries to make up for all the time he's gone when he's here." He sighed. "I really got my ass in a crack tonight. Maybe I should've just stayed there, took a couple of pops, and got it over. He hates it when anyone runs from him."
Paul's expression had grown stony. "You don't have to put up with that, man."
Dwayne shrugged. "Yeah, I do. As he likes to remind me, he's head of the house. He's my guardian."
There was a flicker of pain in Paul's eyes. "I'm acquainted with people who have that attitude. What about your mom?"
Dwayne laughed shortly. "She can't even stand up to him for herself."
David shook his head. "That's not how it goes, Dwayne. Real family will go up against the devil himself for their blood. I'm going to guess that you've tried to protect her."
Dwayne bent his head, letting his hair fall forward to hide his face so the other boys wouldn't see the disgusted sorrow. "I've tried. I gave up when she lied to the cops after I called them, and they ended up suggesting that I get counseling. Jake told me he'd put me in a nut bin if I did it again, and he could." Dwayne flicked the gold stud in his earlobe, then shook the sleeves of his jacket. "Disaffected youth, and all that shit." He turned his mug, starring into the diminishing foam. "Maybe I ought to sleep on the beach tonight. He'll be too busy sleeping off a hangover tomorrow to mess with me, and maybe he'll have forgotten it when he gets up."
"Not necessary," said David. "You're welcome to come back to our place for the night."
Dwayne studied him silently, then did the same with Paul. Finally, he said bluntly, "Why?"
"Mostly because you need a place to stay," said David. "But there are other reasons."
"Like what?" He took a deep drink from his cappuccino. The foam had almost died away, but there was still enough to leave a thin rim of sweetened fluff on his upper lip.
Dwayne started to wipe it away with the back of his hand, but Paul caught his wrist. Dwayne froze. Paul leaned toward him and, quickly and neatly, licked away the foam. Then he pressed his cool lips to Dwayne's and pulled back, smirking. "Like that."
Dwayne found himself licking his own lips, following the path of that cool, damp tongue. He felt something move against the inside of his calf, and looked over at David, startled, as the touch moved up to his knee. It was a foot. David was stroking his booted foot up Dwayne's leg. You couldn't tell it by looking at him as he sat there, leaning back casually. He was smiling at Dwayne. The touch crept higher, sliding along the inside of his thigh. Dwayne stayed very still. The touch came to rest lightly against his fly. God, there was so much potential for hurt here. Dwayne was tensed. Then the touch moved, stroking firmly, but gently. Dwayne felt himself starting to harden. "Like this, too."
Dwayne looked back and forth between the two other boys. He wasn't quite a virgin, but the nature of his lifestyle in the past few years had made intimacies difficult. He was afraid to approach boys his own age. You had to be so careful to avoid an ass-whipping. Any of the older men he might have been interested in weren't going to touch an underage boy, and the one's who WERE interested creeped him out. They were so predatory. Now...
Now he was being approached by not one, but TWO hot guys, and one of them... He darted another glance at Paul--the wide blue eyes, the shining blonde hair, the sexy smirk... One of them was his own personal wet dream made flesh.
Of course there was always the chance that they were a couple of fag basheres who intended to lure him away to a lonely place and beat him... possibly kill him. Dwayne considered his life so far. He thought about what was waiting at home--a shadow-mother who couldn't... no, wouldn't fight for him, and Jake. Possible death, or going back to that.
He drained the last of his cappuccino. "Sure. Sounds good to me."