Title: Endless Summer

Fandom: Rocket Power

Pairing: Otto/Twister

Disclaimer: Rocket Power belongs to Nickelodeon and Klasky Csupo and Viacom. I think. Anyway, it doesn't belong to me. I make no money off of this. Please don't sue.

Summary: Otto likes Twister and Twister likes Otto, but neither will admit it. So how's a slash author to get them together? With the help of friends and a blackmailing brother, that's how. (A/N: Not a self-insert.)

Warnings: Other than a male/male relationship, nothing. But if you can't stand my couple (see Pairing), then go away.

Notes: Otto, Twister, and Sam are 13 years old. Otto and Twister are in 7th grade. Reggie and Sam are in 8th grade. Lars is in 9th grade. The title is a reference to a surfing movie of the same name. We start the fic in Twister's diary. And while I know that Twister's not as good a speller as I make him out to be, I'm allowed to pretend, aren't I? Yes. Yes, I am.

And I can't figure out how to get the effects I want. So, /word/ means that a word is crossed out (has a line through the middle). And _word_ is italacized. But those sections are huge, and it's easy to tell when they start or end.

Feedback: Yes, please. If I don't know what was bad, it ain't ever going to get better.

~Endless Summer~

_Dear /Diary/ Journal,

I almost can't believe what happened today. I was shooting film of the gang surfing, even got the Squid to get some shots of me. Anyways, Otto was great today, like always. But I asked him to hang five for the camera, y'know, and he dipped *both* feet in the water. He looked really great doing it too, muscles all stretched tight like that. After he'd paddled back out to where I was waiting, he asked if I liked his moves out there.

Oh, yeah, I like his moves. More than like his moves. His moves make my day any day.

Of course, I didn't reply as enthusiastically as that, but Reggie and Squid still gave me some weird looks. I don't think they know that I *like* like Otto, and they probably won't ever figure it out. Thank God. I mean, how often does one's male friend fall for one's brother/other male friend? Reggie might be more understandable to the guys because at least she's a girl. But she's too... something, and I don't think I like girls *that* way anyway. I mean, I like watching The Matrix for Keanu Reeves, not the cool action moves.

Gee, I got off topic there. We surfed for a little bit more then went to the Shore Shack for mid-afternoon munchies. We had planned to hit Mad Town after, but Reggie wanted to work on her zine and Sam's supposed to help her. Otto wanted to bail because it wouldn't be any fun without the entire gang. Reg tried to convince him that it would be.

Because I'm sitting here writing this, you can guess how that conversation went. Why does it seem like Otto's always bailing on me? It's fine if it's just him and Reggie, but not me. And Squid doesn't count 'cause he's a squid and could never keep up with Otto.

The new issue of Reggie's zine should be done enough for me to look at, so I'm gonna head over to the Rocket house.

More life sagas when I get back!
-Twister_

Lars put down his brother's journal after reading the last entry. Who knew that the little dork could actually remember and think about stuff?

But the real question was, what should he do with the juicy information that he'd gotten while snooping? Not only was Twister gay, but he also had a crush on Otto! It was nearly too much. This blackmail material would be worth at least a month's worth of chores. Way better than spilling the beans on who *really* broke the garden gnome not-so-accidentally.

Lars began flipping through the rest of the journal, reading random entries, while waiting for Twister to return home.

*****

(A/N: Backtrack a bit in time-- to while Twister's still writing, I guess)

Sam triumphantly held aloft the latest issue of Reggie's Zine, perfect and put-together. Tomorrow, they'd sell copies at school during lunch and here, out of the garage, after class.

Reggie congratulated him. "Great job, Sammy. We even got done sooner than I expected."

"Yeah," Sam agreed.

Reggie swiveled her seat so that she was facing Sam. "I've got a question for you about Twister and Otto, but you have to promise that you're not going to freak or anything like that, okay?"

Sam sat down in the nearest chair, and Reggie swiveled to face him again.

"I promise," he said.

"See, the thing is, I think Twister really likes my brother. In a romantic sort of way, y'know. And I want another opinion on this, to see if I'm whacked or not."

Sam grinned. "Yeah, I've seen it too. Like today--?"

"Twist was totally mooning over Otto!"

"And he had the dopiest grin on his face."

Reggie and Sam high-fived each other.

"Is that all you wanted to ask me about?" Sam asked.

"Not even close to all. I think Otto returns Twister's affections."

"Really?" Sam sounded confused. "But I never noticed anything like that. And I always pay really close attention to you guys, so that I can try and learn tricks."

"Really," Reggie confirmed. "This is my *brother* we're talking about. Who would know him better than me?"

"I guess...."

"He's just not as obvious about it. C'mon, Otto's ego is big; he doesn't like to admit to having any of the softer emotions."

"Oh!" Sam got a clue. "You mean like that one time where he got scared to surf and whatnot after getting whomped big time? And it was all Denial City." Sam began imitating Otto. "No, I'm not scared. What are you talking about?" He switched back to his regular voice. "Like that?"

"Exactly! It comes out in little ways, like how he made sure that Twist got some surfing in instead of just taping us the entire time."

"And he hasn't really spent any time with just Twister lately. Even if it's just Tito or Raymundo, someone's been there."

Reggie nodded. "He's afraid of what'll slip if left alone with Twister for too long. See? You've noticed."

"So?"

Reggie sighed. "You need to think big, Sammy. Big! *We* are going to play matchmaker, since those two'll never admit their feelings if left to their own devices. Now, I've got an idea--"

Just then, Otto walked in through the door connecting the garage to the house. Twister followed him.

"An idea for what?" Otto asked.

"Does it involve plans for next weekend?" Twister asked.

Reggie thought fast. "I thought we could bike out somewhere next Saturday, eat a sack lunch, and then bike back in the afternoon." They couldn't have heard her entire conversation with Sam, or they wouldn't be that calm.

Sam wanted to help Reggie with her matchmaking scheme. His two friends more than liked each other? Cool. "Sounds like a fun plan, Reggie. We haven't had a major bike expedition yet this year." It wouldn't be that much of a leap for Otto and Twister to go from best buds to boyfriends.

"Expi-what?" Twister asked.

Otto answered. "A trip. I'm game. How 'bout you, Twist?"

"Sure." Twister glanced at the clock on the wall beside Reggie. "Oh man, I didn't know it was so late when I came over. I need to get back home, or else I'll be late for dinner. And then my mom'll yell at me!"

Twister rushed out, waving absently at his friends as he ran. Maybe Mama wouldn't make him wash up, so he wouldn't be late. Lateness meant having to clean up after dinner without any help, not even from Lars. And sometimes the pans that Mama had used to cook could be really nasty.

By the time he reached the kitchen, he was out of breath. "I'm here, Mama," he gasped. "What time is it?"

Mrs. Rodriguez looked down on her youngest son fondly. "Don't worry, baby. The chicken took longer than I expected to cook, so go wash your hands then come down. Dinner should be ready by then."

Twister was at the top of the stairs when his mama called up, "And get Lars to come down as well!"

Twister grumbled under his breath about that. He should "forget" to tell Lars, so then his older brother would get in trouble. It'd serve him right for all the times he picked on Twister. Except Lars probably wouldn't be the one in trouble, *he* would. Because Mama expected him to tell Lars dinner was ready.

At first, Twister didn't notice Lars lounging on his bed. He was rummaging in his closet for a clean shirt when Lars spoke up.

"Hey, dweeb."

Twister turned around to look at his brother. "What do you want, Lars? I *swear* that I didn't mean to hit Mama's gnome with my hockey stick."

"That's old news. Let Mom think it was the neighbors' cat."

"Then what?" Twister asked as he pulled on a t-shirt.

Lars dug the journal out from under Twister's pillow. "You shouldn't leave something like this out where anybody could find it." He waved it in front of Twister's face a few times to make his point.

Twister grabbed the notebook from Lars and clutched it to his chest. "Did you look at it?" he asked, panicked. If Lars had, then his entire life would disappear. Because he'd either be stuck as Lars' servant for the rest of his life, or-- No. Otto wouldn't find out. Twister would make sure of that, even if he had to spit shine Lars' boots.

"Of course I looked," Lars said smugly. "But I'll make a deal with you. So that no one else sees it without your permission."

"What's the deal?" Twister studied his sneakers. *They* never snuck into his room and invaded his privacy, although they sometimes hid from him.

"You clean my room and do my laundry and anything else I ask for, say, the next three months. Alright?" Lars growled more than said that last word.

"Alright. You better get downstairs. Mama says dinner's done."

Lars very nearly did a visible double take. By now, Twister had learned to haggle with him about the terms of a deal. That's why he had said three months, to assure that he got a clean room for at least a month. Anything else was bonus. The munchkin must really want to keep that info quiet.

Lars felt a twinge of guilt as he headed downstairs but shoved it off to one side. In a few months, the deal would be over, and Twist wouldn't have to worry anymore. The effective blackmailer uses each piece of information only once. And if it was that important for the secret not to get out, then it wouldn't be heard from Lars, even if Twister broke the deal. He wasn't *that* heartless of a brother.

But Twister didn't need to know that.

*****

_Dear /Diary/ Journal,

Why is it that I always forget that you're a journal, not a diary. I mean, diaries are for girls. Although, Reggie would kill me if she heard me say that. I'm being stupid again, aren't I?

I just... don't really want to get into what's been happening these past few days. But I guess I will, just in case I die from lack of fun. People deserve to know and all that.

I got back from the Rockets' house, and Lars was in my room! Ooh, he makes me mad. What's his deal? I try and stay out of his way, but he's always picking on me. I'd say that he went to far this time, except I can't. Not that I don't want to.

Because he read you, I gotta be his puppet for the next three months. *Three* *months*. That's practically forever. And I don't dare break the deal. Otto's my bro; he'd probably be disgusted by me.

But at the same time, not even a week's gone by since Lars found you, and already I'm at my wits' ends. The only time I can get out of the house is for school. And I'm afraid to talk to Otto because of everything. Something might spill to him, or Sputz could report back to Lars what I did. Sputz has failed enough times to be in my grade, so he's a perfect spy.

I gotta go. Lars is calling. Probably wants me to sharpen his pencils and then eat the shavings or something.

Later,
-Twister_

*****

Otto was reduced to throwing stones at Twister's window on Saturday morning to get his bro's attention.

Twist hadn't wanted to do *anything* this entire week. It was always, "I can't. I've got chores." Or, "Not today. I'm too tired." And once even, "Sorry. Lars wants me to help him with something."

Otto missed his bro and was determined to get him pumped up for Reggie's bike trip today. It was going to be so sweet, and Twister was going to come. Whether he wanted to or not.

Yesterday, Reg had suggested that Twister might be feeling bummed 'cause he'd refused to go skating with him last weekend. But Otto knew Twister better than that. When Twister was upset, he made a point of hanging with Reg and the Squid but ignoring him. And Twist hadn't seemed bummed when he'd come over to see Reggie's zine.

So that wasn't it.

Finally, Twister opened his bedroom window and poked his head out. Unfortunately, Otto had just thrown another pebble, and it smacked Twist square in the forehead.

"Ow," Twister said, rubbing his forehead.

For a moment, Otto thought about how different Twister looked without his hat. And how cute he was, with or without the hat. But then, Otto pushed those traitorous thoughts out of his head. They weren't right, especially since they were about Twister.

"Sorry, man. But grab your gear and get on your bike. We're gonna be leaving soon. We even had Tito pack your fave lunch-- a Shack burger with lettuce and pineapple."

"I can't. And be quiet, or you'll wake Lars."

"When have you cared about Lars? Besides, it's eight in the morning."

"I know, it's late. But he wants to sleep till nine, and I have to keep things quiet," Twister pleaded.

Otto's determination wouldn't be swayed. "I'm the only one making noise, and I'll be quiet if you come down here and *join* me."

Twister fearfully looked around the cul-de-sac before saying, "Okay," and disappearing out of Otto's sight. What Twist had been looking for, Otto had no idea. Reg and the Squid maybe, but they were waiting at the Shore Shack. When Twist walked out his front door, he didn't have his helmet or gloves. Wasn't wearing or carrying them.

"What's the big idea?" Otto yelled.

"Hey," Twister accused, "you promised to be quiet if I joined you."

With Twister finally closer to him, Otto could see that his bud's eyes were red. And he kept wringing his hands out of nervousness. Man, something had to be really bothering Twister.

"I'm sorry," Otto apologized. "But you really should come biking. And you haven't got any of your gear. So go get it while I wait."

"I want to go, really, but I *can't*."

Otto was fed up with Twist's refusals. "Why not?" he said, throwing his hands up in exasperation.

And the truth spilled out of Twister very, very quickly. "I can't because Lars's blackmailing me, and if I don't do what he says, he's going to reveal to you and Reggie and Sam that I'm gay and that I like you, Otto, and I can't let that happen because then you won't like me anymore, and--"

Twister stopped and clapped his hands over his mouth as soon as he realized what he was saying. His eyes opened wide and glistened with unshed tears.

Otto stared at Twist, dumbfounded. Eventually he said, "I'm gonna go now. You stay here, since you said you didn't want to come."

Twister nodded. As Otto biked away, he ran back inside his home and collapsed facedown onto his bed.

*****

Lars woke naturally a little bit before nine. Huh. The dweeb actually managed to keep quiet enough to let him sleep. Normally he was up by seven, bouncing around the house, waiting for the Shore Shack to open so he could go play with his little friends.

Maybe he should give his brother an award, like the day off, for behaving so well all week. Twist *had* been really twitchy lately.

Lars knocked on the door to Twister's room and continued in without waiting for an answer. He found Twister in his bed, completely buried by the comforter and pillows. An occasional snuffle escaped from underneath the vaguely Twister-shaped mound. Lars decided to be nice to his little bro. Something had upset Twist majorly if he was crying about it.

Lars sat down next to Twister and gently shook him.

Twister mumbled, "Go 'way."

Of course, Lars couldn't be *obvious* about the fact that he was being nice. "Is that any way to talk to your older brother? Now get up. I got something for you to do." Lars was planning on ordering Twister to go and have fun with his friends.

Except Twister threw off the covers and jerked upright. "I'm *through* taking orders from you, Lars. Because of you, I blabbed to Otto, and now he knows and probably everyone else too, and I have no friends, and it's all. Your. Fault!" Having said his piece, Twister buried himself once more under the covers.

Lars' first thought was that Twister sounded hoarse, probably from crying. The second was that he had no idea how things had gotten out of his control. From what Twist had said, it sounded like he had told Otto he was gay. And, because his brother was hiding and crying, Otto had not taken the news well.

Dang it, now he had to spend the day fixing the mess Twister had made. He might always pick on his little brother, but that didn't mean he wanted Really Bad Stuff to happen to Twist. And this definitely fit that category. Because Otto always had Twister's back, except now he didn't.

But first, he owed Twister an apology. It was, sort of, his fault. "Look, I'm, uh, sorry. Okay? If I'd known this would've happened, I wouldn't have peeked at your diary and all. I'm gonna go talk to Otto, see if I can't pound some sense in him. So... bye."

Lars walked away without waiting for Twister's answer. He didn't really expect one.

*****

(A/N: Backtrack a bit in time-- Otto's biked away and gone down to the Shore Shack)

Otto was in a foul mood by the time he parked his bike at the Shore Shack. How dare Twister want in his pants! They were buds, practically brothers. Guys just didn't like guys in that sort of way. It wasn't the way the world worked.

Reggie and Sam walked up to greet Otto but backed away when they saw the snarl on his face. Instead, all three sat down at counter, Otto separated from Reggie and Sam by the extra stool.

Tito plopped three pineapple-banana smoothies down and asked, "What's the problem, little cuzzes? And where's the fourth cuz?"

Otto ground out, "There's no problem, Twister just doesn't want to join us."

Tito looked over to Reggie and Sam, but they both shrugged. They didn't have anymore of a clue than Tito.

Sam asked, "Do you want me or Reggie to go talk to Twister? See if we can convince him to come?"

"No." Otto turned his back to his friends.

"Are you still up for biking?" Reggie was concerned. Otto shouldn't be this angry, even if he had found out about the matchmaking plan.

For an answer, Otto kept his back turned. Reggie and Sam got on their bikes and left. Maybe if they came back later, Otto would've calmed down. He certainty couldn't be in a mood worse than the one he was in currently.

Otto let his anger slip when he heard Reggie and Squid leave. If he was truly honest with himself, he wasn't *really* angry. Just majorly confused and a little bit scared. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tito whisper something to Raymundo while gesturing towards him. And, like he expected, Raymundo went around the counter and plopped his butt onto the stool next to him.

For the longest time, Raymundo didn't say anything. But there was no *way* that Otto was going to start *this* particular conversation.

And of course, when Raymundo did decide to speak, it was a typical, predictable opening line. "So... what's on your mind, Rocket Boy?"

Otto would be lenient and really get things going. "Did you know that Twister's gay?"

"No, but it doesn't really surprise me."

"You're not upset or anything?" Otto was stunned. How could his dad accept news like that so calmly?

"No... but you seem to be."

"Of course I am. Gays are girly and wimpy and afraid of their own shadows. They're all wusses!"

Raymundo sighed. Where Otto got ideas like this stuck in his head, he didn't know. But Otto probably just needed someone to point out how wrong his thinking was. "Otto, I'm going to ask some simple questions. You are to answer me honestly, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir." Raymundo was getting serious on him.

"Did Twister wake up one day and decide that he's gay? Or did he figure this out awhile ago and just not tell anybody?"

"Probably awhile ago."

"Did you ever notice any sort of 'gay' behavior from Twister?"

"He's been acting strange this week, but that's because of Lars."

"So, you haven't noticed any 'gay' behavior?"

"No."

"Is Sam gay?"

"No. He briefly dated that one girl from his English class, remember?"

"Just making sure you do. Now, does Sam ever behave 'girly'?"

"He screams like a girl."

"Sam's afraid of a lot of the things that the rest of the group isn't, right?"

"Yeah."

"And he's not really adventuresome, so he could be considered a wuss?"

"Sure, I guess."

"So, let me see if I got this right. Gays are girly and afraid and a bit of a wuss. However, Twister, who is gay, is none of those things. And Sam, who *isn't* gay, is all of those things." Raymundo leaned forward so that his son was forced to look into his eyes. "Those statements contradict themselves. So, final question, which are true and which is false?"

Otto laid his head down on the counter. "Aw man, I can't believe I was so stupid." Otto looked up at his dad. "I gotta go, okay?"

Raymundo spread his arms out in a grand, sweeping gesture. "Go. Be swift like the wind."

Tito started saying, "Like the ancient Hawaiians say, 'A coconut that falls far from the tree...'"

But Otto never heard the rest of Tito's advice. He was up and peddling as fast as he safely could with pedestrians around. He eventually made it out to the Point. It was so isolated that no one would be out there. A perfect place to think.

All right, so he didn't have a problem with Twister being gay. But Twist had also confessed that he liked him. Him, Otto! That was freaksome. And weird.

But at the same time, it wasn't entirely unwelcome. Because after all, hadn't he had some similar type of feelings towards Twister. He liked Twister, but was he attracted to his friend?

He definitely liked to hang with Twister, even more than he liked to hang with Reggie. And when Twist did something dumb, he didn't rag on him like he did Sam. Well, he ragged some, but then he helped his bro. And when he did that, it felt special-- he felt special.

And, Otto supposed, he *did* like to watch Twist. His bud had good moves. And was... really hot. Good muscles, nice skin, and more than a few scars from when he beefed something bad.

That was the first time Otto let himself think such things. The sky hadn't fallen, and he wasn't any different. Huh. He actually felt freer because he wasn't trying to repress everything anymore.

Awesome. When he got back to Ocean Shores, he'd be able to tear up Mad Town like never before. But until then, he was staying at the Point. It was peaceful.

*****

Lars couldn't find Otto anywhere. He wasn't at his home or the Shack, and he wasn't at Mad Town. In fact, he wasn't anywhere on the Boardwalk or the Pier. So now Lars was heading back to the cul-de-sac to check Otto's home once more. If that failed, then he'd go back to Twister and explain things somehow. Maybe. Empathy wasn't really his strong point though.

As he bladed up the street, he thought that Otto had better be at home.

Instead, he very nearly ran into Sammy. Lars turned one way, and thankfully Sam turned the other. The Squid still fell though. Reggie glared at Lars while she helped Sam up.

"Watch where you're going, Lars," she said.

Lars glared back. "Where's your brother? I need to find the dork."

If possible, Reggie glared even harder. "Why?"

"Because I'm gonna give him a pounding, that's why."

Sam sensed that both Rockets might get a pounding if he didn't intervene. "Um, look Lars, we don't know where Otto is either. And surely you don't need to--" Sam gulped. "--pound him *that* badly."

Lars broke the staring contest first. "Actually, I do. He's gone too far, and he's got it coming to him."

Reggie didn't seem to want to quit glaring, so it was up to Sam to continue the conversation. "You can't forgive and forget?" he asked.

"If it was about me, then I'd have no problem pounding you instead of him. But he hurt my little brother bad, and that makes stuff different." For emphasis, he punched one hand into the other.

While Lars had been talking, Reggie had listened, both to the words and to the tone of voice. Lars was beyond angry; he was practically livid. And about something between Otto and Twister. Hmm.... She needed to know what, exactly, the something was.

"Do you know how Otto hurt Twister?" she asked.

"Yeah!" Lars said emphatically. "You think I'd get this upset if I didn't know any details?"

"Could you tell us? Please? I mean, how can Sam and I help you if we don't know anything?"

Sam gave Reggie a confused look. They were going to help Lars pound Otto? Reggie winked back. All part of a plan.

"You mean you don't know? I thought Otto would've told you guys."

"No, he didn't. So...?"

"I, uh, can't. Twister's already, um. And yeah. It's kind of personal, I guess."

Reggie sighed. This was going nowhere fast. What could be so personal to Twister that he didn't want his friends to know?

Sam figured it out first. "If it's about Twister being gay," he said, "we already know."

"Oh." Lars blinked. "You took the news better than Otto then."

"Wait a sec," Reggie said. "You mean Otto knows? And...." Realization dawned. "And they fought about it!"

"Yeah. So now you see why Otto's getting pounded."

"Not quite," Sam interjected. "Otto and Twister have fought before, and you've never shown any fraternal support then."

"Look, Twister's been bawling his eyes out, and I'm tired of answering your stupid questions. Do you, or do you not, know where Otto is?"

Twister was crying. *Otto* had made Twister *cry*. Reggie was just about ready to hold Otto down, brother or not, while Lars punched. She now knew what Rocket Boy had been so angry about this morning. He'd better have gotten some sense in his thick skull before she found him. And if he hadn't, well....

Reggie grinned. "I think I know where he is, Lars. Follow me!"

She skated off, leaving Lars and Sam behind. They looked at each other, shrugged, and followed.

*****

Otto had never spent any significant amount of time at the Point other than when finishing a race there. There really wasn't anything to see or do. Too dangerous to surf, too small to do any tricks. All in all, very dull.

He was just about to go back to Ocean Shores when he heard people approaching. They weren't talking amongst themselves, so they were probably racing. He'd stay here, so he could give pointers when they finished. After all, he *was* Otto Rocket, greatest at all he did.

Now imagine Otto's surprise when the people got close enough to distinguish, and he saw Lars, Reggie, and Squid. The three lined up in front of him, each scowling. Reggie even had her arms crossed.

"Hey Rocket Girl, Squid and, uh, Lars. What's happening?" Otto smiled his "who, me?" smile, but it wilted under his friends' looks.

"Are you through acting like a jerk?" Reggie asked.

"What're you talking about? I haven't *done* anything!"

Lars' scowl broke into malicious glee as he addressed Reggie. "Can I pound him now, please?"

Reggie ignored Lars for the moment. "What do you mean you haven't 'done' anything?" As she became more vehement, she unhooked her arms and waved them around. "Have you completely forgotten about Twister? This morning? Everything!"

And in truth, Otto had forgotten. The Point had been a brief respite from life, and he'd let himself relax.

When Otto didn't immediately answer, Reggie turned to Lars. "Argh. Fine. Pound him if you want. At this point, it's more than coming to him."

Otto backed up as Lars advanced, holding his arms out defensively. "Wait," he pleaded. "I'm sorry, okay? I was confused. And scared. And I'm not really mad at Twist."

"Does this mean I can't pound him?" Lars asked.

"Yes, it does," Reggie answered. She turned on Otto. "But you gotta go back and apologize to Twister right away. Do you understand?"

Otto nodded and climbed on his bike. The four started back on the trail leading to town. Otto ended up hanging in the back with the Squid because the path was so narrow.

"So, uh, how is Twister?" Otto asked.

"Well, I haven't actually seen him," Sam answered honestly. "But Lars said he was crying, and it was bad enough to get Lars to come all the way out here to beat you up."

"That sounds bad."

"Yep." Sam felt happy. His friends were on the road to reconciliation. Matchmaking wasn't so hard after all.

The trip was silent until the group reached the Rodriguez house. Otto got off his bike, and Lars immediately grabbed the front of his shirt.

"If you do anything else to hurt my little brother, I am gonna pound you. And not even your sister'll be able to get you out of it." Then, he released the shirt and walked up the sidewalk.

Otto hurried to catch up with him. Once inside, he immediately went upstairs. Twister was hidden by his bedding, but his door was open. Otto knocked anyway as a courtesy before entering.

"Please leave me alone," Twister said, words small and muffled by cloth.

Otto sat on the bed. "Sorry, man, but I can't do that."

At the sound of Otto's voice, Twister inched down the covers, exposing just his hat and his eyes. He looked expectantly at Otto.

Otto's stomach curled. Twister looked bad, pale and a little bit puffy around the eyes.

"I came to apologize," Otto said. "I'm not really angry."

Twister sat up, which was a good sign, but he sat about as far away from Otto as he could without getting off the bed. "And you don't hate me?"

"No, though I did make it seem that way, didn't I? So can you forgive me?"

"I don't know," Twister said warily. "If you're not angry and don't hate me, then how come you acted like you did this morning."

"This is going to sound stupid." Otto watched his hands as he talked but occasionally glanced up to look at Twister. "But I like you too, except I wasn't ready to admit it. So when you, uh, said what you did, it forced me to confront my own feelings. And I lashed out because I didn't want to."

"Oh." Twister paused, then, "You like me the same way that I like you?"

Otto nodded.

Twister crept forward, on hands and knees, till he was kneeling next to Otto. For a second, the friends stared at each other. Otto was the first to move, and he hugged Twister, hard, around the shoulders. Twister responded by looping his arms around Otto's waist and laying his head against Otto's chest.

~The End~

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