"So what do you want to do for your birthday this year?" Sterling asked Aubrey. It was Sunday night and they'd done nothing all weekend except watch Netflix and eat pizza. Right now, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was playing on the 70 inch TV screen.
He shrugged from beside him on the couch. "I haven't really thought about it."
Sterling turned towards his son. They were sitting close, but not touching. It'd been that way since they walked back in the house yesterday. Remy had left with a mumbled good bye and they'd set about cleaning the place. They'd not spoken much and the stupid ass tension had returned. It'd lessened as the day had worn on, and today, they were nearly back to normal.
"What do mean you haven't thought about it? You're going to be 17 in a couple of weeks."
Aubrey took a bite of his meat lovers pizza and glanced at him. "Yep, October 30th." He shallowed his bite. "Mom likes to remind me how lucky I am that I was born 5 minutes before Halloween day." He chuckled.
Sterling snorted. "Goddamn, I remember her raving about how your due date was Halloween and that was the devil's day and blah blah blah."
Aubrey laughed. "I know. She tells me God made her go into labor early because she was praying for me not to be born on Halloween." He finished his pizza and shifted his attention back to the TV.
Sterling took a bite of his own pizza and watched his boy. Fuck, he couldn't believe he was going to be 17. And next year he was graduating. Where had the time gone?
"You're staring," Aubrey said without looking away from the movie.
He was. But he didn't stop. In Sterling's opinion, not many people had good side profiles. Their nose was too big or bumpy; their chin too flabby; their face too long. But Aubrey's profile was...beautiful. His skin was smooth, like it'd not aged since he was born. His nose was straight and upturned just the slightest at the tip. And those lips...
He swallowed as he remembered just how those lips had tasted. Pink and sweet.
Aubrey finally turned his head to look at him. "What?"
Those bright fucking eyes seared into him. Christ, no wonder he'd fallen every time his boy had just looked at him. How was he supposed to resist eyes like that?
"Nothing," he mumbled. He shifted on the couch, facing the TV and putting his feet up on the coffee table.
It was quiet for a few minutes. Aubrey was staring at him, but Sterling didn't budge. He kept his eyes on the screen.
Suddenly, he heard the creak of leather. Aubrey was scooting closer.
"Like we used too?" he said softly. He carefully rested his hand on Sterling's stomach.
He got a goddamn flutter from that one little touch.
Aubrey stared at him, his eyes big. "Just hold me like you used too." He carefully laid his head on his chest.
Sterling sucked in a sharp breath as the weight of his boy's head hit his body. Christ, he'd missed this. Just being close to his son; nothing sexual, just simple cuddling. Which sounded lame as fuck in his head, since he never cuddled. But his boy was the exception to all his rules.
Aubrey had that feeling of being home again. His dad's heartbeat was in his ear and the heat from his body seeped into Aubrey.
His dad was rigid for a few seconds, then his stomach deflated as he exhaled, the tension leaving his body with the air.
Aubrey smiled to himself. He did want their relationship to be physical, but more than anything, he wanted his dad back. And this was apart of their relationship, it always had been.
Aubrey rubbed his face into his dad's black t-shirt. He buried his nose in the fabric and inhaled.
His dad laughed. "What are doing?"
"Smelling you," he said into the shirt.
His dad laughed as he did it again.
Aubrey grinned. He freaking loved the sound of his dad's laugh. It was deep and free. It was just another thing that spoke of home. Everything about his dad said home to him.
His dad's arm came around his back and settled on his hip. Aubrey's breath stuttered.
They went back to watching the movie, neither saying anything. But Aubrey was smiling the whole time.
"So, how are things with your dad?" Banner asked Monday morning as they were walking to their first class.
"Jesus, Banner, you go a whole week without saying anything, then you just throw that shit out there."
Banner shrugged. "Whatever."
Jeremy came out of the bathroom and almost walked right into Banner. "Morning, dickface," he said, pausing in front of them.
Banner raised his middle finger. "Morning, asshole."
Jeremy smirked. "Best you got?"
Banner just stared at Jeremy. "You're not original. Why should I be?"
Jeremy's eyes darted back and forth between Banner's. "Not gonna offer to suck my cock again?"
"Not in the mood for cock today. But if you're really nice, I'll finger fuck you. Find your prostate and all," he deadpanned.
Aubrey choked. "What the hell, Banner?"
Jeremy's face just went from a smirk to a full blown smile. "I think you like making promises you can't keep." He leaned down next to Banner's ear. "One of these days I'm going to take you up on your fucked up offers."8
Banner just kept staring. "I'm sure you have the balls to let a guy fuck your ass." Then he ducked around Jeremy and into their bible class.
"What was that?" Aubrey asked him when they'd sat down in the back.
"What?" Banner said. He was staring straight ahead.
"That was pretty..." Aubrey didn't even know what word to use.
"He's a dick," Banner said that like it explained everything.
Before Aubrey could say anything, Tiffany and Shannon came in, followed by Becca and Jesse.
Becca flopped down in the desk in front of Aubrey. "I heard you two broke up."
"We weren't ever really together," Aubrey said.
Tiffany and Shannon sat up at the front.
Jesse took the seat in front of Banner. "Hey," he said to Banner.
Banner didn't look away from the front. "Hi."
"That's not what I heard," Becca said as she leaned over the back of her seat. "Tiffany thinks she was in love with you," she whispered.
"What are you doing this Friday night?" Jesse asked Banner.
Aubrey shifted his attention to them.
"Studying." Banner still didn't look at Jesse.
"On a Friday? Can't it wait till Sunday?" He smiled at Banner.
"I think she's a bit crazy," Becca said.
Aubrey was still watching the exchange between Banner and Jesse.
"It can't," Banner said.
"If you were mine, I'd never let you get away." Becca slid her hand up Aubrey's thigh, until her fingers brushed his crotch.
He jerked his attention back to her. "Shit!" He jumped to his feet.
The whole class fell silent.
"Mr. Reed-Anderson, did you just utter a word that we are not supposed to utter?" Mrs. Hamilton's lined face stared hard at him.
Aubrey glanced around. Banner blinked at him. Tiffany blushed. Shannon glared. Becca licked her lips—gross.
"If you mean shit, then yeah, I did."
Mrs. Hamilton huffed. "There was no need to utter it again. You are now receiving two demerits." She put her hands on her hips.
"Isn't the principal the only one who can give those out?"
The class snickered.
Mrs. Hamilton pursed her lips so tightly, it made her mouth look like it disappeared.
"You know very well a teacher writes them and then they are signed by the principal."
Aubrey sat back down.
"What do you think you're doing, young man?" She marched to his desk. On the way, she glared at Amber. "Cover up those legs, we're not running a brothel."
Becca giggled behind her hand.
Mrs. Hamilton stopped in front of his desk. "Gather your things. You are to go straight to the principal's office." She clicked her tongue. "Your mother will be so disappointed. Such a good and godly woman."
"She's out of town, you'll have to call my dad."
She crossed her arms. "Perhaps that's exactly what you need, the firm hand of a father." She nodded firmly.
Aubrey raised his brows at him, his lips twitching.
"What's the matter with you, Mr. Chambers?" She turned towards Banner.
"Am I just to go straight to the—"
"Yes, yes," she sighed loudly. "Don't act like you have no idea where you're going, Mr. Reed-Anderson."
"You can just say Anderson," Aubrey said as he gathered his books and stood.
"Do not talk back, that is rude, young man. And your mother gave you a hyphenated last name, it is the name I will use. It is the name you should use, it is the name you will always use. It is on your birth certificate. Clearly your mother wanted it used."
Aubrey blinked at her. Banner stared at her. Jesse shook his head. Becca laughed into her desk.
"Actually, my dad was the one who wanted—"
"Enough!" She pointed at the door. "You have taken up enough of my class time with your heathen language."
"Yes, Aubrey, you should know better than to do such bad things," Banner drawled.
Aubrey chuckled. "I should know better than to do a lot of things."
"I said enough!" Mrs. Hamilton put her hands on her hips and tapped her foot.
Aubrey gave a little wave and then he was out of the classroom and on his way to the principal's office.
He couldn't wait to see what his dad would do when he heard about this.
They had a big project ahead of them this week. They were going to be outside most of the time, which sucked since it was still so damn hot out.
"What happened to you the other night?" Travis said.
The goddamn sun was beating down on their backs as they worked on putting up the walls. Why did this company have to pick a spot right in the middle of a fucking field with no shade?
"Stephanie's friend was really into you."
He grunted. Like he gave a fuck.
"Her name was Amy...or Pam...or was it Samantha?" Travis scratched his head.
"Don't give a fuck. Now get your ass back to work. It's fucking hot and I want to get this shit done."
Before Travis could say anything, Sterling's phone rang.
"Damn." He pulled it out. He didn't recognize the number. "'Ello?"
"Hello, is this Mr. Anderson?" A man asked.
"Yeah, who the hell is this?"
The man cleared his throat. "Um, this is Mr. Pratt, the principal of —"
"Is Aubrey hurt?" Sterling dropped his tools and immediately started walking to his car.
"Uh, no. Mr. Anderson, your son has committed a very serious misdemeanor."
He halted in his tracks. "Aubrey? My son?" His boy never did anything wrong.
"Yes, his teacher heard him say the S word...twice."
Sterling pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it. Was this guy for real? "He said shit?"
The principal coughed. "Mr. Anderson, it is unnecessary to repeat the word."
Sterling blinked once. Then he starting laughing.
"Mr. Anderson!" The principal's shocked tone only made Sterling laugh harder.
Travis stepped up beside him. "What the hell man?"
He shook his head. "Aubrey's in the principal's office because he said shit." He laughed. "Twice."
Travis laughed too. "Is this school for real?"
Sterling nodded. "Allyson's decision, not mine."
He wiped his brow. "Yeah?" He chuckled.
"He has informed me that his mother is out of town, you are the only other one on his contact information—"
"That would be because I'm his dad."
The principal cleared his throat. "Yes, well, we need you to come down to the school. Immediately."
"What the hell? For saying shit?"
The principal sighed. "Mr. Anderson, please cease from saying that word."
Sterling smirked at Travis. "What? Shit?"
Travis laughed and shook his head. "You're an immature asshole."
"Mr. Anderson, you must either come down to the school or I will be forced to call his mother."
Jesus fucking Christ. Looked like he was headed to the school.
Aubrey watched as Mr. Pratt hung up the phone. His cheeks were red and he was grinding his back teeth together.
Aubrey had a pretty good idea of how his dad had reacted.
"So, what did he say?"
Mr. Pratt folded his hands on the desk. "He laughed."
Aubrey covered his mouth with his hand.
"Which frankly concerns me a great deal."
Aubrey coughed, trying to stop the laughter.
"Does your mother know he laughs about serious matters?"
Aubrey nodded. "I'm pretty sure she knows."
Mr. Pratt pinched his brows. "Is there something you'd like to tell me?"
Mr. Pratt leaned over his desk. "How's your home life? Your relationship with your father?"
Aubrey shifted in his chair. "I've always had a really good relationship with my dad." Like really really good. And recently it just got explosive.
Mr. Pratt nodded thoughtfully. "There's not..." he rolled his hand in the air, clearly trying to find the right phrasing. "How do I put this delicately? Abuse?"
Aubrey stared at him. How was that delicate? "Absolutely not," he said firmly. Who the hell did his principal think he was?
"I meant no offense."
I think he did. Aubrey thought.
"My dad would never hurt me." But I wish he would hurt me in one way. His cock pumping in and out of —
"I'm glad to hear it."
Aubrey shifted in his chair again. He needed to stop thinking about that stuff. All it did was give him a boner. Crap, that would really give Mr. Pratt something to talk about.
Damn. Don't think about dad in the principal's office.
Sterling pushed the glass door to Brighton Christian School open.
What a fucking joke.
"May I help you, Sir?" An old lady behind a desk asked.
"I'm going to the principal's office." He kept walking towards the door that said "Principal" on it. Not that hard. He didn't need the woman's help.
"Excuse me, sir!" She exclaimed as he turned the knob and walked right in.
Aubrey was sitting in a chair in front of Mr. Pratt's desk.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Pratt, he just came right in." She looked at him with an accusatory glare in her eye.
"It said, 'Principal' right on the door, why would I need your help?"
"It wasn't for your help, it was so I could announce you."
"Why the fu—"
"Dad," Aubrey said quickly.
The principal and the lady both stared at him. Sterling huffed and took the chair next to Aubrey.
Mr. Pratt cleared his throat. "Thank you, Mary."
She glared at Sterling. "You're welcome," she said to the principal.
Once the door clicked shut, Mr.Pratt turned his attention to them.
"Mr. Anderson, your son was recorded as saying the S word twice."
Sterling wanted to point out that he'd already told him that over the phone, but he didn't. He just glanced at Aubrey. He was sitting straight in his chair, his fingers tapping silently on the arms of the chair. He glanced sideways at Sterling.
"Why'd you say it?" He didn't care that his kid "said the S word", but he knew his boy. There was a reason he'd said it.
"Mr. Anderson, with all due respect—"
"Let him answer." He glared at the principal with his graying brown hair and dorky glasses. "I don't give a shit if he said what you consider to be a bad word, but something happened for him to even say it at this tacky religious school in the first place."
Mr. Pratt sputtered and his ears turned red.
"Dad," Aubrey said out of the side of his mouth.
He focused on his son. "So, what happened?"
Aubrey shifted. He glanced from the principal to him.
"Nothing," he muttered.
Sterling sighed. "Aubrey, these kids here don't really care about you, not telling me what happened isn't some form of protection, or what the fuck ever you think it is."
"Would you just keep it shut, please?" He frowned at the principal.
"This is language is—"
"Yeah, unnecessary. But that's you. This is just how I talk on a day to day basis."
Mr. Pratt stared furiously at him. "Then it is no wonder your son is in my office for using such ungodly language."
Sterling clenched his fists. "I'd watch your goddamn mouth when it comes to my kid!"
"I've never!" Mr. Pratt reared back like he’d been struck.
"Dad!" Aubrey stood up.
Sterling stood up too. He glowered at the tiny little man behind the desk. "You will not sit there and judge my kid through your damn religious lens."
Mr. Pratt rose to his feet.
"Dad, stop," Aubrey muttered from beside him.
He turned his head and looked into his boy's eyes. They were big and pleading.
"Please stop," he whispered. He wrapped his fingers around his bicep.
He took a deep breath. "Okay, Aubrey."
"This has gone far enough." Mr. Pratt stood there, with his fists propped on his hips, like some kind of fucking mediator between heaven and earth.
Christ, he just wanted to throw all the religious shit this man had littered throughout his office right in the little man's face.
No one sat back down.
"Tell me what happened." He asked Aubrey. He didn't even glance at the principal when he spoke.
"I don't see—"
He glared at Mr. Pratt. He shut his mouth.
Aubrey bit his lip and lowered his eyes. "Dad, I'm not some snitch."
He put his knuckle under Aubrey's chin and gently tilted his head up. Once he was looking into his eyes, he said, "No, you're not. But I need to know what happened."
"It's not a big deal," he said quietly.
"Maybe not. But I think we need to see the whole picture."
Mr. Pratt sighed. Sterling wanted to punch him.
"If something did indeed happen, Aubrey, you should probably tell us," the principal said.
Sterling wanted to say a few to that man, but he bit his tongue. Aubrey needed him right now, so he kept his fucking mouth shut.
Aubrey stepped back, and Sterling noticed the way his arm instantly grew cold. He shook it off. Now was definitely not the time to think about that.
"I was startled." He shrugged like it wasn't a big deal.
From the corner of his eye, Sterling saw the principal open his mouth. Before that ignorant man could say anything, he said, "What happened?"
Aubrey sighed and scrubbed his hand across his face. "Someone touched me and I wasn't expecting it. That's all."
Sterling felt his blood grow hot. "What exactly do you mean by touched you?" he said through gritted teeth.
Aubrey sat in the chair. "She was just hitting on me."
Motherfuckin' shit. If his boy didn't tell him right now what the fuck this girl had done, he was going to lose his goddamn mind.
"What does that mean, son?" Mr. Pratt said.
Sterling whipped his head around. His nostrils flared and his lips tightened. "He is not your son."
"Dad, for Christ's sake!"
The principal's eyes grew round. "I never! Oh my word, what—"
"Would you shut the hell up?!" He clenched his fists at his sides.
Aubrey jumped to his feet. "Okay, enough! God, this is getting out of control." He came to stand in front of him, in between the desk and Sterling's body.
Sterling looked down into those fucking eyes that could always calm him.
"Listen, it's not a big deal, all right?" he said quietly. "It was just a girl, she flirts with everyone." He took his dad's hand and squeezed once, then let it go. "It's not a big deal."
Sterling felt his blood settle at that one quick, simple, touch.
"I think this meeting has gone on long enough," Mr. Pratt said. "Your son is going to be suspended for two days for his use of cursing."
Sterling felt his blood boil again.
Aubrey grabbed his hand. This time, he didn't let go. He was still standing between them, his back to the principal. Sterling gazed into his eyes as the principal rattled on about their fucking handbook and rules and other useless shit.
Aubrey's lips tilted up slightly on one side. "It's okay," he said softly.
He inhaled, filling his lungs with air. "Okay, kid."
"Let's go," he said quietly.
He nodded. "I'm taking my boy home."
Mr. Pratt stopped spewing his religious shit. "What?"
"I'm taking him home." He put his hand on Aubrey's upper back and guided them to the door.
"His suspension doesn't begin until tomorrow, he has to finish out the day."
Sterling opened the door. "He sure as fuck doesn't need to finish out the day."
The principal sputtered again. Sterling let the door slam behind him and Aubrey.
"You're so embarrassing," Aubrey said with a smirk.
The receptionist pursed her lips like she'd eaten something sour as they stopped at her desk.
Sterling picked up the pen, to sign his son out, and grinned. "The best dads always are."