Have Your Cake...

Jacob asked the first question that came to mind, "What happened to you?"

"Like you even care," Seth spat back.

Jacob bristled at that. He wanted to not care. He thought he didn't care but for some reason Seth's assertion that he didn't stung.

"Of course, I care!" he retorted.

"Right, like you're the only person who's allowed to punch me?" Seth's voice dripped with sarcasm.

"That's not... ugh!" This was not going how Jacob had planned. "That's not what I needed to talk to you about."

"What then? I need to go catch my ride," said Seth.

"I need to make sure you're not going to say anything," Jacob finally said.

"About what?"

"About Friday," said Jacob with exasperation.

"Ah, right. Don't worry, you're secret's safe with me. I won't say anything." Seth looked away, but he finally seemed serious, and perhaps a little disappointed.

Jacob visibly relaxed. "Thank God," he said. "I might actually get things to work with Sarah."

"Sarah?" asked Seth, the venom seeping back into his voice.

"Sarah Williams. I asked her out on Saturday."

"I know who Sarah Williams is, asshole! How can you be such a dick?!"

Jacob was thoroughly taken off guard. "How is that any business of yours? She wanted me to ask her out."

"It's fine if you want to keep lying to yourself, and it's fine if you want to be a slut, I could care less, but don't you fucking get other people involved in your lie." Seth was pointing at Jacob. "Sarah doesn't deserve to be strung along by you. I'm not going to fucking tell anyone your secret, but you should. If you hurt her, fucking... I don't ever want to talk to you again, okay? Hear me?"

This wasn't any of Seth's business, why was he getting so worked up about it? "Fine by me. It was you who talked to me first anyway. You leave me alone, I'll leave you alone. Sounds good to me." Jacob stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him and leaving Seth alone in the dark. That couldn't have worked out better. Seth would be out of his hair, and he had gotten a promise that his secret was safe. So why did he feel like shit?

Jacob couldn't get the conversation with Seth out of his head all night. What reason would Seth have to care about his involvement with Sarah? It's not like he was going to marry her, so what was the big deal? He was planning to honestly date her. That wasn't a lie... was it? Jacob lay on his bed, unable to sleep. He stared up at his dark ceiling. He still hadn't gotten an answer from Seth about what happened to his eye. Seth had mentioned Jacob thinking he was the only one allowed to punch him. Did that mean someone else had punched Seth? Jacob realized his jaw was clenched tight and released it. His breathing was uneven and felt raw in his throat.

Jacob was caught off guard at lunch the next day when it was Sarah who brought up Seth.

"Poor Seth," she said, to no one in particular after noticing him at another table. "I heard he was punched over the weekend. He's such a sweetheart. Who would do such a thing?"

Guilt hit Jacob again for his own punch, but he wanted to know who threw this one. He couldn't appear to be concerned about Seth, though. That would be too risky. Instead, he asked, "How do you know Seth?"

"Oh, we've had a number of classes together. We're not super close, but we're friends." She took a sip of her chocolate milk.

"But isn't he... you know-" Jacob was treading dangerously now, but he was curious how a good baptist girl like Sarah would be friends with someone like Seth.

"He's gay, yeah, but that doesn't bother me. I mean, we're supposed to forgive right? It's God who will judge. I don't have to support his lifestyle to be his friend. He's not a bad person, he's just... misguided." Sarah looked around the table for support from the others.

"That's not what my dad would say," said Jacob.

"Maybe not," said Sarah. "But he's really not a bad person, and I'm not going to avoid him because of it. He's my friend. Maybe I can bring him back into the light by being his friend."

Jacob strongly doubted that. How would Sarah react if she knew she was doing the same for him? Would she agree to help him change? She might even enjoy that. Jacob considered for a moment the possibility that he could tell her, but dismissed the thought.

"He probably got beat up for flirting with someone. You've seen how he is in school. Fuck, if he came onto me in public I might beat him up myself," said Bret offhandedly before taking a bite.

"You better fucking not," said Jacob reflexively. Then, to save face he said, "we can't afford you getting in trouble. You're the best small forward we've got on the team."

"Fine, whatever," said Bret.

Bret's response nagged at Jacob for the rest of the day. That violence would be aimed at him if his secret ever got out. Despite that, it wasn't himself he was worried about. He had a feeling this wasn't the first time Seth had gotten himself into trouble, and it wouldn't be the last. Why did he have to be so obvious? God, Jacob wished he had someone he could talk about these things with. He hadn't ever wanted that until Seth gave him the chance. Now he felt extra isolated with his thoughts.

Jacob managed to avoid any more encounters for the rest of the week. Sarah said Dana was going to be having some people over on Saturday night and wanted her to come. Jacob agreed to accompany her, though he almost never attended parties with mostly Forge students. He had gone to the Middleton party thinking no one from Forge would be there. He was glad Sarah had been there, though.

Forge was a special charter school for all the gifted kids in Middleton. It was a kindergarten through twelfth-grade school, but they did a good job keeping the age groups separate. The only other high school in Middleton was Middleton High. Jacob had entered Forge his sophomore year after being bored out of his mind at Middleton. Forge had an excellent sports program to complement its college prep level academics. Everyone at Forge had tested in. Despite that, Jacob had never felt comfortable outside of school with any of the other Forge kids. He was popular, but not because he tried to be. He pretty much only hung out with his teammates and even rarely spent time with them outside of school. Besides his escapades with girls, he didn't spend much time with anyone.

Dana's parents were out of town for the weekend and she had the house to herself. Of course, that meant she had to have a party.

Jacob had been lead to believe it would only be a few friends of Dana's, plus him and Sarah, but when they arrived, the house was full. Apparently, word had gotten out.

"Isn't this crazy?" asked Dana as she came out to meet Jacob and Sarah.

"Aren't you worried about getting in trouble?" asked Sarah.

"Nah. As long as I can have it cleaned up by Sunday night, it should be fine. I just hope no one breaks anything. Come on, relax, have a drink." Dana led them inside into the crowds.

Jacob remembered immediately why he hated parties. Someone drunkenly bumped into him and spilled something made of mostly alcohol on his shirt.

"Fuck!" That was a great start to the night.

"The kitchen's this way," said Dana. "We'll get you cleaned up."

They got out of the fray and Jacob soaked up most of the alcohol with a paper towel.

"Do you want a drink?" asked Dana.

"No, I don't think so," said Jacob. "Maybe later. I destroyed myself last weekend."

Jacob hung around the edges of the party, watching people have fun, and chatting with anyone who approached him. This was definitely not his scene. He was at his best on the court. He didn't have to talk to anybody there, and he could focus on what he was best at. He was one of the top scorers in the county, but social events like this left him at a loss. Now that he wasn't the center of attention for the girls and he couldn't just run off to an empty room with one of them he was stuck. Sarah was having fun with her friends.

It wasn't until halfway through the party that Jacob noticed Seth was there. When had he gotten there? Seth was on the other side of the room chatting to another guy Jacob didn't know. He didn't think the other guy was from their school. Seth seemed to be having a good time. Jacob couldn't hear any of their conversation over the music, but he tried to watch without anyone noticing that was what he was doing.

Seth kept touching the guy's arm while they were talking and leaning in when he laughed. His brilliant smile lit up his face despite the black eye, which was finally starting to fade to a sickly greenish-purple. Jacob remembered when that smile was turned on him and his insides turned to jelly.

Seth wasn't just talking to that guy, he was flirting with him. Jacob felt his heartbeat quicken and his palms get sticky. He didn't care that Seth was flirting with someone. He couldn't. That would be stupid. He was just worried that Seth might get himself hurt again. Why did he care about that? It shouldn't matter.

The room felt a lot smaller. Jacob was beginning to sweat. There were too many people in this room. The room was too hot.

Jacob didn't want Seth to get hurt because he wouldn't want it to happen to himself. Wasn't that why he wanted his secret to stay a secret anyway? He didn't want Seth to have to go through that because no one should have to go through that.

The guy Seth was talking to leaned in to whisper something in his ear and they both got up and started heading in Jacob's direction, by the stairs.

Jacob needed to get out of that room. It was stuffy and he was starting to feel like he couldn't breathe. There were too many people. Jacob pulled himself around the corner back into the kitchen where he found Dana.

"I think I'll have that drink now," he said.

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