Chapter 1

"Bumlets? Bum? Dominic! You alright?" Bumlets shook himself out of his stupor at the sound of his best friends' voices.

Specs and Dutchy, along with two other close friends, Blink and Mush, were all peering at him in concern. "You were totally zoned out," Dutchy said, "We've been trying to get your attention for ages!"

"Sorry," Bumlets smiled, at his friends, "It was nothing. I was just worried about my math test."

Blink and Mush seemed to accept this, though Mush sent him one last concerned glance, before his boyfriend whispered something in his ear which made him blush, and elbow Blink, quite hard if Blink's grunt was anything to go by. Still, he couldn't have been too mad, as the two had begun making out again within moments.

Unsurprisingly Specs and Dutchy seemed to remain unconvinced. All five of them may have been close since kindergarten, but it had always been, somewhat split, into Blink and Mush (whose names had begun to, since they began dating, almost run together until they were almost one being), and Bumlets, Specs, and Dutchy. Even once Specs and Dutchy had begun dating, the friendship between the trio hadn't faltered once. If anything it became stronger. The only difference, in the friendship there was now and the one they'd once had, was that rather than the three of them sitting around laughing and talking, the three of them sat around laughing and talking, with Dutchy clutching Specs' hand, and Specs shooting shy smiles, and the occasional soft blush in Dutchy's direction.

"Seriously what's the matter?" Specs asked softly, leaning in slightly. Dutchy peered over Specs' shoulder so that he too could study Bumlets' face, bright blue eyes shining with concern.

"Its nothing, I'm fine," Bumlets repeated. He had never told his friends about the fiasco that had lasted his entire freshman, and some of his sophomore year. All that the knew was that shortly before Christmas their sophomore year, Bumlets' beloved older brother, the one who he'd looked up to and tried to emulate for most of his life, had been disowned, and that Bumlets, though shaken up about it, had soon returned to his normal self, perhaps somewhat quieter than he once had been, but normal.

Once Landon had left, had been thrown out, really, things had gone mostly back to normal. His parents had gotten him weekly appointments with a psychologist for nearly six months after, and it had been a long time before Bumlets had really felt normal again, but he was. Mostly.

News of Landon being disowned at spread fast. The junior and senior boys who had been Landon's customers knew what that meant. Bumlets knew that some of his brother's 'whores' had continued to serve on their own, but he hadn't. Alex had approached him once to ask him to, but Bumlets had, shaking and trembling the whole time, said no, as fast as he could.

Sometimes he wondered if Specs knew more than he'd let on. Bumlets was sure that if he thought about it enough, he could probably figure it out. After all, they hadn't always been Bumlets, Specs, and Dutchy. Back before high school, before Landon, they had been nothing more than Dom, Danny, and Chris. But then he'd become Bumlets, and the other two had noticed after a while, the older boys' habit of calling their friend that, and before long they all had nicknames.

Bumlets also couldn't be certain that Specs hadn't overheard Alex that one time, ask him to continue to serve him. He had never said anything, but he had appeared beside him shortly after Alex had left, and he had in the weeks afterward, noticed Specs sometimes give him a look, a half worried, half scrutinizing look, as if he knew something was wrong, but couldn't figure out what, and was trying desperately to do so.

He was giving him one of those looks right now. "You can tell us you know," Specs said, "We're your friends. We always have been."

"Not always," Bumlets said, without thinking, as he remembered the time before kindergarten, the times at the orphanage before the Luceros had adopted him.

"Well we couldn't help that," Specs said, taken aback.

Bumlets felt bad when he saw his friend's almost insulted look, "I'm sorry," he said, "I know you're my friends, but it really is just my math test. And I didn't get much sleep last night." Bumlets hesitated briefly, and then decided that throwing in a small piece of the truth might satisfy his friends' need to pry into his life, "I was thinking about Landon a bit. I guess I'm still a little worried about him..." No one, as far as he knew, had heard a word from his older brother since that day, near two years before, that he'd been thrown out.

"Well don't be," Specs said sharply, "He doesn't deserve your thoughts."

"What do you mean?" Bumlets asked nervously.

"He hurt you," Specs said, softly, "You didn't deserve that."

"What do you mean?" Bumlets repeated, this time a little angrily.

"Marie told us," Specs said matterafactly, "She wouldn't tell us what exactly he did, but..."

"We were worried about you man," Dutchy cut in, squeezing his boyfriend, then reaching past him to squeeze Bumlets' shoulder, "You were acting weird, skittish, nervous, and you wouldn't tell us why."

Bumlets scowled to himself, "Marie has too big a mouth," he said quietly.

"She was just looking out for you," Specs said in a soft, yet firm, way, which made Bumlets feel like a five-year-old all over again.

"I know," Bumlets said, flipping his hair out of his eyes a little. "It wasn't that bad though... Landon, I mean."

"What did he do?" Dutchy asked curiously. Bumlets hid a smile as Specs gave Dutchy a scolding look, but didn't answer the question. Instead he glanced across the schoolyard at another small group of boys. More friends, though not quite as close.

One of the boys, with curly brown hair, leaned against another, who hid his dark blond hair with a cowboy hat. The other two, appeared to only be talking, although the darker one seemed to keep finding excuses to touch the other.

The fourth boy glanced over for a half a second, and made eye contact with Bumlets. He seemed to understand his SOS, because the lithe boy stood easily, and said something to his friends, who bid him goodbye, and wandered casually over to where Bumlets sat with his friends. "Hey Bum," Spot said, "Bells gonna ring in a few minutes. I'm heading to English now, you coming?"

Bumlets breathed an unnoticeable sigh of relief, "Yeah sure Spot," he flashed a smile at his friends, "See you guys at lunch," and followed Spot into the school.

Spot glanced at him, "You haven't heard anything from Landon?" It was a question Spot always asked, usually accompanied by the nervous shift of his eyes, as he bit his lip in an unusual sign of weakness. Bumlets had a funny feeling that Landon had done something once unusually cruel and inhumane to Spot—as he knew that Landon did like to take advantage of his own whores every now and then. Although he himself had never been subject to it (it appeared that Landon did draw a line somewhere, and having sex with his own brother, even merely adoptive brother, was that line), he'd heard rumors from the others.

"No," Bumlets said quietly, "Nothing. Thanks for helping me out there."

Spot shrugged lazily, "Not a problem. I was looking for an excuse to get away from the boys anyways."

Bumlets glanced over, "The boys? Or Race?"

Spot didn't answer for a long time. Then, finally, he sighed, "Race needs to realize that I don't do relationships."

Bumlets frowned, and started, "Look Spot, you can't let Landon ruin whatever you and Race-" And would have said more if he hadn't been plowed over by a speedy Asian rounding the corner at lightning's pace.

"Sorry!" The boy jumped up from the ground and offered his hand to Bumlets. Bumlets accepted the boy's hand, and shared a "WTF" look with Spot.

"Its fine," he said, turning on his nice-guy smile automatically. "Are you new?" he added, a little puzzled as he realized the boy wasn't in uniform.

The boy grinned, "I start next week. My parents were in the office taking care of things, but I got bored so I thought I'd poke around the school a bit..."

"Well there's not much to see now," Spot snorted, "So why don't you go ahead and—"

Bumlets stepped on his foot, a silent reminder to be nice.

The Asian boy flushed lightly and laughed a little, "Well... they told me to meet them back at the office now, but... I kind of got lost..." He flashed a (damn attractive) hopeful grin, and stared at the two boys expectantly.

Bumlets laughed a little. The other boy's eagerness was somewhat... endearing. "The office is just down that hall," Bumlets said, jerking his thumb back towards the way he and Spot had just come, "Around the corner, third door on the left. Good luck... maybe I'll see you when you start." Then having done his good deed for the day, proceeded to continue on his way to English with Spot, forgetting all about the new guy he'd bumped into; not even finding him significant enough to mention to his friends later that day at lunch.

But if he had thought to spare the boy just one last glance, to look back one more time, he would have seen the transfer student staring after him, wide eyes alight with some unreadable emotion…

And there's the first 'real' chapter. If you don't count the prologue. That's all for today though. My deadline for the next chapter is S's half birthday… May 27th, but if you're lucky I'll feel inspired enough to finish another chapter before then. =P