"You just started dating, it shouldn't be too hard to break things off, especially if you tell her the truth," Seth suggested.

"I can't do that!" Jacob lamented. "First, she was so excited. Second, I still don't want anyone else to know. If I break up with her without giving a reason she'll be devastated. I’ll feel like such an asshole."

"You are the asshole, remember? You haven't been dating long, how devastated could she be?"

"How devastated would you be?"

They sat in silence.

"Fuck. If I break up with her, how am I going to keep up the charade with the other girls? The only reason they're leaving me alone now is because I'm dating Sarah."

"You are NOT going to be sleeping around with girls just for appearances," proclaimed Seth.

"No, of course not, I wouldn't want to anyway. But how do I explain that without giving myself away?"

They went back to sitting in silence, trying to find ways around their predicament.

The reality of what just happened hit Jacob like a ton of bricks. He did like Seth. He really liked Seth. It’s probably why he had hated Seth so much to begin with. He didn’t want to turn back. He didn’t want to deny it anymore. It felt too good. But Sarah went to his dad’s church. Sarah’s parents knew his parents. Everyone in church probably already knew they were dating. Jacob suddenly felt trapped. Even if no one found out about Seth, breaking Sarah’s heart would get him in enough trouble. He had dug his own grave. 

"I don't like it, but it might be our only choice for now," Seth finally spoke up.

"What choice?"

"You keep dating Sarah." Seth sighed and pressed himself against the bed again.

"Weren't you the one opposed to me dating her in the first place? You said if I hurt her you'd never speak to me again." Jacob looked intently at Seth, trying to understand him.

"Okay, first? I was jealous. Of course, I was jealous! Jeeze! I didn't want you dating anyone! You had only just kissed me and run off the night before. Anyone would be pissed." Despite his words, Seth looked a little embarrassed. "And second, well, it's a shitty thing to do to a person. Sarah's a nice person. She's very trusting. It will be taking advantage of that, but-" Seth stopped himself but then seemed to find the words he was looking for. "I feel like being a little selfish, okay? If you dating her means she doesn’t get hurt yet and I otherwise get you to myself, that feels like the best solution right now. We'll make it up to her somehow when the time comes."

They descended into silence yet again. Seth was right. Sarah would provide good cover, and he knew his parents would be thrilled with him dating her. They would overlook other possibilities. 

Finally, Jacob agreed, "Okay. I keep dating Sarah. This can't possibly blow up in our faces."

Seth reached out and took Jacob's hand, knitting their fingers together. "We'll figure it out together," reassured Seth as he squeezed Jacob’s hand. Jacob had never felt that kind of affection before. It was strange, but not bad. 

"This whole day sure went in a direction I did not expect,” sighed Jacob. “So. Now that we’re being truthful and shit, will you tell me who punched you?” 

“You did, asshole,” Seth jabbed, but Jacob could hear from his voice that he was smiling now. 

“You know what I’m talking about.” Jacob wasn’t about to let Seth wriggle out of it this time. 

“It was stupid.”

“I still want to know.”

“It was just some jerks outside the Target down in Nampa. Me ‘n Jessica go shopping down there sometimes. We’re less likely to run into anyone we know. I was wearing a rainbow shirt I had just bought - Target has been getting things like that lately - and some dude called me a fag across the parking lot. I gave him the finger and me and Jessica headed to her car. We didn’t see them coming. They must have run across the parking lot to reach us -” Seth stopped mid sentence. His grip on Jacob’s hand tightened. “Jessica was on the other side of the car. She saw them first. One guy grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. He punched me in the face. Another one punched me in the gut and I fell down. Then I think they were kicking me. I think I could hear Jessica screaming. I wasn’t really aware of much at that point. I was just trying to protect myself. Jessica said she threatened to call the police and the dudes ran off.”

Jacob was stunned. Seth hadn’t done anything. “They just… attacked you for your clothes? That’s assault! Have you reported them?”

“Like they’d do anything. I don’t even remember what they looked like. Jessica probably does. She said we should report it too, but I just want it to be done. I don’t want to have to think about it. I was lucky to not end up in the hospital this time.” Seth paused and lifted his shirt. Blue and purple bruises darkened the skin across his chest and abdomen. “The black eye is the least of it.” 

A hot rage slowly started to boil under Jacob’s skin. It was one thing for him to be scared for himself - he had his position on the team, and his dad’s position in the community to worry about - but random violence just because Seth existed was more than Jacob could take. No one deserved that. That was not the message Jesus gave, not even in his Dad’s church. There was no way beating up a kid like Seth was the will of God. Jacob suddenly found himself angry at his father, and the possibility it was what he preached that had gotten Seth injured. 

He had always been scared of being found out, and worried that he would disgrace his parents, but he had never been angry at his dad for his beliefs. It seemed only natural. For the first time he thought of his father as the enemy, as a person in the way of his happiness. There was nothing wrong with Seth. There was no reason for him to endure that kind of pain. Even Jacob’s dad would have to agree with that, right? 

“You really wont go to the police?” he asked Seth. 

Seth was rigid next to him. “No,” he said. “I don’t want it to drag out. I just want to forget it happened. It’s not like it will make it better. It will just make them angrier. It’s not the first time I’ve been hit for being gay, it’s just the worst time.”

Jacob felt the phantom pain on his own knuckles from splitting Seth’s lip only a week before. He looked at Seth and he could still see the faint evidence of it. “I’m so sorry. I guess, I’m no better.”

“You had your reasons. You’re still an asshole, but I did corner you.” Jacob couldn’t accept that.

“I know it doesn’t mean much, but I wont let that ever happen again; not from me, or any other assholes who have a problem with you.”

“That’s nice of you to say,” sighed Seth, “but you wont always be there. You don’t have that kind of power, and no one’s supposed to know about us, so…” 

The resignation in Seth’s voice twisted Jacob’s heart in his chest. He wished he could contradict him, but he knew Seth was right. There wasn’t much he could do without outing himself as well. 

“Well, we should go back down to the party before anyone gets suspicious right?” said Seth, conspiratorially. Jacob could hear a note of sadness in his voice though, and it tugged at his insides. “We shouldn’t be seen heading down at the same time. I’ll go first.” Seth let go of Jacob’s hand and got up. 

Jacob felt the distance immediately. This little bubble was about to be burst and they would have to go back to pretending not to know each other again. Jacob would have to go pretend to be straight again. He would have to pretend Seth’s presence didn’t make his heart beat like a hummingbird again. He stood up and grabbed Seth and pulled him up into another kiss. He was a good head taller than Seth, and he had to bend down slightly to do so. Seth wrapped his arms around him and squeezed. 

Seth broke the kiss first and pulled away. “Gotta go. I’ll see you at school.” 

And Seth was out the door. Jacob was left alone in the room. Wasn’t this what he came up here for in the first place? The room felt very empty now. What had Jacob just done to himself?

“Goddammit,” Jacob breathed, missing the feel of Seth already. Don’t take the lord’s name in vain, Jacob.

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