Chapter Fourteen

Not Quite Perfect

"Just put the boxes in the living room," I said when we all pulled up in front of the house. "They're all marked so we'll know whose is whose. Let's worry about the bigger stuff for now."

The bigger stuff consisted of two beds that Thad had purchased for himself and Leo, four trunks and three chests of drawers. There was a hutch and couch table coming from Dean Halliwell, too. I didn't know why he was giving them to us though. It wasn't like the house wasn't fully furnished. The only thing we'd needed was beds. There was still a bed in the second bedroom, so Greg wasn't in need of one. All of my stuff had been moved into my mother's bedroom the year before so there was plenty of room in the second bedroom for Greg and all of his stuff.

Leo was taking Vince's old room. Thad had bought him a single bed and a chest of drawers. This had caused a long conversation between the two at the diner the night before when Thad announced that he'd purchased these things. Leo had insisted that he let him pay him back, but Thad wouldn't hear of it. He said they were a gift and refused to talk about it anymore.

Thad was actually moving into the basement bedroom that had once belonged to Phillip. He'd spent an hour looking the room over the night before and declared it his lair. I was actually glad that he liked that room because I'd wanted Leo on the second floor with me and Greg. The bedroom he was inhabiting wasn't big enough for two beds and neither was the basement room. Greg had claimed my old room so that left things to be decided between the two of them.

Andy had moved almost all of his stuff out of the house and into the garage apartment. When I tried to protest he told me that it was actually perfect. He said that Gage was having trouble with his landlord and if I didn't mind he would be moving in with Andy. I thought it was a good idea but I hated that he had been moved out of the house.

We got everything off the truck and into the house with no problems. Noah came over to help Leo set up his room and I was happy to see them talking excitedly as they walked up the stairs with boxes in their arms. Andy helped me take my boxes, trunks and TJ's boxes up to my room. I was a little nervous actually. Later in the afternoon my friends would be returning to Storyville from their schools. I was going to be face to face with Nick soon. I wondered exactly how that would feel.

"You're being awful quiet, Tommy," Andy said as we got the last of the boxes up to my room. "Thinking about your mom?"

"Actually I was thinking about Nick," I replied, looking at the floor. I didn't want to tell him exactly what had happened between us the night before Nick left for school, but I needed to talk to someone or I was going to go insane.

"Something wrong between you and Nick?" he asked, sitting on the edge of my bed and looking up at me.

"I'm not sure," I admitted. "Wrong may not be the right word to use in this situation. Something happened before he left for school and I'm a bit confused."

"What happened?" he asked.

"Well," I stammered. "This is really private, Andy. I don't feel comfortable telling you what happened without Nick's permission."

"Are you talking about Nick kissing you?" he asked, flooring me.

I stared at him in shock for what must have been an eternity. How did Andy know about this? I couldn't think of any way for him to have found out. I hadn't said anything. Nick was gone. Had he seen us? I'd thought he was with Gage that night, but if I'd been wrong he could have seen us. But why had he waited so long to say anything about it?

"How did you . . ."

"Nick," he replied. "He's called me about a hundred times since he left. He's one confused guy, Tommy. I've tried to be there for him as much as possible, but a lot of what he needs to figure out he has to do on his own."

"Wait," I said, sitting beside him with a sigh. "Nick has been calling you? Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because our conversations have been very personal and very private," he said. "I didn't tell anyone what you and I talked about when you needed to talk."

"I understand," I replied. "But I'm still very confused. Nick will be here in a few hours and I don't know what to say to him."

"He's having a similar problem," informed Andy. "How have your letters back and forth been?"

"Stinted at best," I mumbled. "He tells me about school and his classes but there's nothing really friendly in the letters."

"That's because he doesn't know what to say to you," he said. "He's just as confused about that kiss as you are."

"But he has to have some feelings about it," I protested.

"He does," replied Andy. "He has a lot of different feelings about it, actually. He's scared of what it will do to your friendship for one. He's also terrified that you've said something to someone about it."

"I haven't!" I gasped. "I've been going nuts about this privately since he left. I would never . . ."

"Calm down," he said, holding up a hand. "I know you wouldn't have said anything. I've lived with you long enough to know you very well, Tommy. I told him the same thing. He's just worried. You know how it goes. You don't have to be logical when you worry."

"I know that," I replied, thinking about all the times I'd worried about silly things for hours at a time.

"You haven't told him about Tyler, either," he pointed out.

I hadn't either. Tyler and I were a relatively new relationship. I'd told Nick about meeting Tyler, Greg and Thad. I just hadn't gone into much detail about any of them. What was Andy implying? Was Nick going to be hurt because of me and Tyler? That was just too much to even worry about. I mean it was so strange to think about Nick in this way. He'd always been my friend. Nothing more.

"It isn't like TJ and I have been together that long," I said weakly.

"I know," he said. "The fact still remains that he doesn't know about the two of you. Then there's the fact that Tyler isn't here right now. He won't even get to meet him for a while."

"TJ's coming back two days before classes resume," I said slowly. "Nick will probably leave around that time, too. They won't have much time to get to know each other."

"You're wrong about that, actually," he said, making me snap my attention back to him. "Nick won't be leaving when he comes home. He's going to sit this semester out and start at Storyville University next year."

"What?" I asked quickly. "He hasn't said anything about that to me in his letters."

"Well what have you told him about in your letters?" he said, looking at me hard.

"Right," I sighed. We'd both been very vague in our letters. Thinking back on them it was like we weren't even friends. It was like we were performing a job by writing letters back and forth to each other. I didn't like that at all. Nick and I'd had our fair share of problems in the past but we were closer than those letters made it seem. I loved Nick Andrews like a brother.

"Look," he said with a sigh. "Ben and Wendy will get here pretty soon, too. Just make sure that you set aside some time to really talk to Nick alone. Believe me you two need to work this out. With him moving home you really need to figure out what's what between the two of you."

"But that's just it, Andy," I said quickly. "I can only offer him friendship. I love him like a brother, but I'm with TJ."

"Then tell him that much," he said. "He's a big boy, Tommy. He'll understand. Maybe not right away, but he will understand."

"Thanks, Andy," I said as he got up and left the room.

I spent about an hour putting my stuff away. I had debated on putting TJ's things away but I thought he might like to do that himself. Once I was done I went downstairs for a snack. I found the rest of the gang sitting in the dinning room talking.

"Andy says we need to go to the grocery store," Leo informed me when I entered the dining room. "He says there's not enough food to feed everyone."

"Well I guess that's probably true," I sighed. "Until today there's only been Andy and Gage around here."

"So who's going to the store?" Thad asked.

"Well first we need to sit down and make a list of the foods that everyone wants," I said, taking a seat beside Greg at the table. "Then we need to work out how we pay for groceries, who cooks on which days and so forth."

"I can't cook," said Thad. "You'd all die if I did."

"Then you'd better learn how," I laughed. "I'll take Sundays."

"I've got Tuesdays," said Greg. "I'm not going to be home much on Mondays for a while."

"Then I'll take Wednesday," said Leo, smirking at Thad. "I'm not the best cook, but my food won't kill anyone."

"But I don't know how to cook," Thad complained.

"We'll all pitch in to help you learn, Thad," said Greg. "Why don't we leave Mondays for Tyler and Saturdays for no one. Thad can have Thursdays."

"What do you mean no one cooks on Saturdays?" Leo asked.

"Well, we eat at the diner on Saturdays," I replied. "For the rest of the day we can all just fend for ourselves."

"I see lunch meat in my future," laughed Greg, rubbing his belly.

"Now for who pays for groceries," I said, laughing at Greg. "With so many people living here we'll have to go to the grocery store at least twice a week. I can do the shopping if everyone agrees, and I have enough in my house account to buy groceries for the week. You guys would just have to put money in some other way."

"What about utilities?" Thad asked. "How do we pay those?"

"Well there are three," I said. "Water, electric and gas. Trash is paid for by the year and it was just paid last week. What we'll do is divide each by the number of people living here. Until TJ comes back that will be five. That's the amount that each of us pays for each utility bill."

"What about the internet?" Greg asked.

"We'll do the same with that," I replied. "That also covers the cable television."

"Sounds good," said Leo. "I noticed that my room has a cable for both television and my computer."

"All of the bedrooms have those jacks," I replied. "We're all wired and ready."

"Cool," said Thad. "So when do the bills come in?"

"Around the first of the month," I said. "We're fine for now, but around the fifth of January we'll be ready to pay up."

After that we discussed keeping the house clean, laundry, yard work and finally the grocery list. Leo and I headed off for the grocery store to do the shopping while the rest of them finished setting up their stuff. Greg was excited about his own internet connection. I was just happy to finally be going after something to eat.

"You and Thad must be getting along better," I said once Leo and I were buckled into my car.

"We are, why?"

"Well you left Noah with him," I replied cautiously. "That's a big step for you."

"I figured maybe he could talk to Thad," he said. "I don't know much about the gay thing other than the crap I was taught growing up. He has that already. What he needs to learn is how to be who he is without prejudice getting in the way."

That statement gave me pause. Leo continued to surprise me as we got to know each other. That statement told me a lot about where his head was with Noah's sexuality. He hadn't come to talk to me so far, but I didn't think talking to Thad was such a good idea either. I couldn't tell Leo that. I wanted the two of them to be friends. I ended up saying nothing about it.

We went through the supermarket, putting the things on our list in our two carts. I noticed Leo's eyes go wide a few times as he mentally calculated the price of the food we were putting the carts. That made me chuckle. Leo still didn't know the extent of my house account. I decided that I wouldn't say anything about it and just let him think it over for a while.

At the check-out lane his eye nearly popped out of his skull as the items were tallied. The final total had him gasping while I laughed. I handed the cashier my bank card and watched as the bag-boy got everything in paper bags. They offered drive up loading and I accepted. I had to actually tug at Leo's arm to get him to follow me.

He was quiet while we walked to the car, drove around to the pick up lane and the groceries were loaded into the car. I think he expected the manager to come out and tell us that we couldn't have the groceries. As we drove away he stared at me with an awed expression. I guess he didn't expect me to have the six hundred dollars it cost for the groceries.

"Something wrong, Leo?" I asked, trying hard not to laugh. It wasn't like me to be that way but I couldn't help it that time. Leo was always so serious about things that I thought he needed to be shook up a bit.

"No," he said, closing his mouth and turning to look straight ahead.

"Look," I said, deciding to let him in on the truth. "When my mother was killed I was compensated heavily by her insurance. The firm she was working for also had a policy on her and I was the sole beneficiary. That's where my money comes from."

"You didn't have to explain," he said. "I was just shocked. You spent more on one week's worth of groceries than my parents spent on six weeks."

"Well I'll confess that that's more than one week we bought," I replied. "My friends are coming home soon and I plan to have a little get together to welcome them home."

"That's nice," he said. "It'll be strange to see them all again."

"Well only Ben, Wendy and Nick are coming home," I said. "Mark won't be home for the holiday and Peter's family moved to Atlanta."

"Will you ever get to see them again?" he asked.

"Sure I will," I said. "We'll fly out there some time to visit or they'll fly back here. We're all friends, Leo. Just because we've entered a new stage in our lives doesn't mean that we never want to see each other again."

"Right," he said. "I guess I've just never had real friends before."

"Well you have some now," I informed him. "I can't speak for the others, but in me you've found a dyed in the wool friend."

"Thanks, Tommy," he said as we pulled into the driveway at the house.

"No thanks required, Leo," I said as we got out of the car. "Just keep being a friend."

"Count on it," he said with a smile. "I'll go round up the 'mates to help pull this stuff in the house."

"Thanks," I said as I opened the back door on my side and reached in to start taking the bags in the house.

I lined the bags up on the side porch so that they could just come out to the porch and grab a bag. I figured that was good enough for me. I was half way through when Noah came running out of the house. He looked like he was crying and he ran straight across the yard to the Andrews house. Next I heard Leo yelling. I forgot about the bags and went inside.

Greg was standing in the dining room, looking at the open basement door. I could hear Leo and Thad yelling at each other from the opened door. I looked at Greg and he shrugged. As I got closer to the door I heard what the yelling was about. Leo called Thad a bastard and Thad said that it had been Noah kissing him. My perfect little arrangement suddenly seemed a lot less perfect.

Storyville 3