Chapter 1 School Daze
Ten… eleven…. twelve… thir- four- fif- six-… Wait! Twenty… twenty-tw- twenty-ni- …oh forget it.
Ryan sighed to himself and chuckled quietly. He had been looking out of the window, trying to count the passing trees as he and his parents drove along the road, but at the speed they were traveling he could not keep up. Now he had to think of something else to distract himself… something to help keep his mind off the nervousness he was feeling as they got nearer and nearer to what would be his new home for a few years; Northwestern University. He had already gone over the information packet from beginning to end, and then back again so he felt confident he was ready to embark on a new chapter of his life.
They were making an hour and a half drive from Champaign to Chicago. Ryan’s parents sat up front while he sat in the back, surrounded by luggage and boxes. Ryan could not deny it; he was excited. At the same time, though, he was nervous. He didn’t know what to expect as a new college student. His life would change dramatically as soon as he stepped foot on the university grounds.
“Honey, get over to the right or you’ll miss the exit,” Ryan heard the voice of his mother, Barbara, say. Ryan sat up a little to see over the front seat, tossing his head slightly to remove his bangs from his eyes in order to peer over his mother’s shoulder at the road ahead, reading the upcoming green sign.
Northwestern University EXIT ½ MILE
“Okay, sweetheart,” Robert, Ryan’s father, answered, his eyes still on the road. Soon, they exited the highway, onto the streets of Chicago. Ryan’s heart sped up as he gripped the front seat tighter with anticipation. Barbara’s head quickly turned to her son.
“Oh, Ryan dear, sit back and put your seatbelt on,” She reprimanded her 18-year-old son. Ryan sighed once again, leaned back in his seat, and did so. “Thank you, sweet pea.”
It was about another ten-minute drive, before Ryan could see the campus coming into view. Out of excitement, he tried to lean forward, but the seatbelt caught him in the chest, causing him to choke. He sat back and coughed a little.
“Oh, dear, are you all right?” Barbara asked with concern as she turned around. Ryan just nodded, rubbing his chest a little.
“Barbara, stop babying the boy... er… man,” Robert said. “He’s about to go to college for goodness sake.”
“I know, I know, but a mother still worries about her little boy.”
“I’m not a little boy anymore, mom.” Ryan pointed out. Barbara squinted her eyes at him.
“Yes you are.” She stated finitely and paused. Ryan’s eyes shot up to the rearview mirror and saw his father roll his eyes. Then, Ryan looked back at his mother and she leaned closer and spotted something below Ryan’s bottom lip. “Oh, come here, you got something-” She quickly licked her thumb and reached for his chin.
“Mom!” Ryan shrieked and tried to back as far into the seat as he could, holding his hands up in defense.
“Just let me…”
“Barbara, darling, please turn around.” Robert begged as he turned into the Northwestern University’s parking lot in front of the Administration building. Barbara did so with a pout as the car pulled into a parking space. Ryan quickly unbuckled his seatbelt, and hopped out. He stood there for a moment in awe. Students were littered everywhere all over the lot and lawn. Robert cut the engine, walked around back to open the trunk, and started pulling out more boxes. Ryan grabbed his luggage from the back seat. Robert left for a moment and returned with a roll away cart. Once everything was unloaded and placed on the cart, they all stood around the car.
“Oh, Ryan,” Barbara groaned as she looked around skeptically. “Are you sure you don’t want to come back home with mother? It’s okay if you want to wait a year or two… or three.”
“For the last time, dear, he’s a grown man.” Robert stated and Ryan chuckled.
“I’m sure mom,” Ryan smiled.
“Okay,” Barbara said and unzipped her purse. “Here’s a debit card…” She hands it to Ryan. “…and a credit card if the debit card doesn’t work… and some emergency phone numbers…”
Ryan looked at the slip of paper, and scrunched his eyes brows. “Um, mom, why is 911 on here?” He asked confusedly.
“Just in case you forget,” Barbara responded. Robert took hold of Barbara’s arm.
“Sweetheart, he’s not going to forget that number,” He said carefully, not wanting to upset his wife.
“Well, you can never be too sure,” Barbara countered. Robert just shook his head and went to stand by Ryan, and Barbara continued to sift through her purse.
“Whatever she says, just go with it,” He whispered. “You know how your mother gets so emotional.” He snickered and Ryan laughed as they watched Barbara.
“Oh, my baby boy…” Ryan mocked quietly in falsetto causing the two men to share a laugh. Barbara looked up at them and squinted.
“What are you two whispering about?” She asked accusingly, stepping forward. “Are you two making fun of me?”
“No, of course not,” Ryan shook his head fringing innocence.
Barbara pouted, “Just because my baby’s growing up, doesn’t mean I can’t worry,” She said, and stepped closer to Ryan. “As a matter a fact, it gives me more reason to worry,” She says as she adjusts the collar of his shirt. “Going out into the world and all…”
“Mom, try not to worry too much,” Ryan said and pulled Barbara into a hug and she held him tightly. Barbara then sighs, rubs his back, and releases him. Robert gives Ryan a hardy pat on the back.
“I’m proud of you son,” He says admiringly.
“Thanks, dad,” Ryan said appreciatively.
“Are you ready to check out you new ‘home away from home’?” Robert nodded over his shoulder to the buildings on the left.
“As ready as I’m gonna be.” Ryan smiled as he led the way. They had a short walk through the campus grounds and Robert was impressed with the manicured lawns and how neat everything appeared.
“Ahhh...here we are.” Ryan sighed, standing in front of the tan brick building. They made their way down the hall through the throng of excited students and their parents passing the main lounge and TV room. Barbara took in all the sites making sure it was to her liking, after all her baby was going to be living here. She nodded her approval as theypassed the kitchenette and notice it was clean and neat. They found the room numbered 212 on the “B” hall, Ryan’s home for the next 12 months.
Upon stepping inside Ryan gave his approval with a smile, the room was much larger then he had imagined. The lay out was perfect, two desks with chairs, that had built in bookshelves and task light. On each side of the room were twin beds. Each student had their own closet and clothes storage units with drawers and a floor lamp.
“Nice.” Barbara smiled nodding to Robert who agreed.
“It is.” He said walking over to his wife placing his hand on her shoulder.
Ryan shoved his hands in the pocket of his jeans and smiled. “Home sweet home.”
“Hey, looks like your roommate has picked his spot.” Robert pointed to the bed closest to the window noticing the large trunk at the foot of it, and the boxes on top.
“Yeah, I wonder what he’s like; I mean if he’s nice.” Barbara wondered aloud.
“I’m sure Ryan will be fine.” Robert said in an assuring tone. “Anyway, we better get going, give Ryan time to unpack and get familiar with the place.” He said placing his hand on Ryan’s shoulder.
“Yeah, I’ll walk you guys out.”
Back at the car Ryan gave his mom a big hug. He could feel her warm tears against his shoulder as he whispered in her ear, “Don’t cry mom, I’ll be fine,” before kissing her tear stain cheek.
“I know son,” she managed to say without breaking down; “I’m just going to miss you that’s all.” She used the back of her hand to wipe away the tears, and gave Ryan one final squeeze before Robert opened the door for her. Once inside she blew Ryan a kiss and covered her eyes with her hands to hide her tears.
“She’ll be okay son.” Robert assured Ryan who had a worried look on his face. Robert walked up placing his hands on his son’s shoulders looking him in the eyes. He asked, “You remember the talk we had right?”
Ryan nodded, “Yes sir.”
“Okay…I want you to know I consider you a man now, and I’m so…so proud of you.” Robert said locking eyes with his son. “College life is going to be a lot of work, but the reward will be great, and along with that comes new beginnings, new friends…adventures and first time experiences.”
“Dad!?” Ryan started to protest.
“I know…I know we’ve had this talk before son, but I just want you to be safe, promise?”
Ryan nodded quickly, he knew this was his father’s version of the “birds and bees,” talk. “I promise.” Ryan pulled his father into a hug. “Thank you, dad, for always believing in me.”
Robert tussled Ryan’s hair and gave him a wink before getting into the car. Ryan stood back watching his parents drive away. He sighed heavily, watching until he could no longer see them.
Once they were out of sight Ryan turned around and for some reason the campus looked larger now that he was alone. He decided to take in some of the sights,familiarize himself with the lay out taking the long way on purpose, drinking everything in. The air around him felt different, fresher, the grass greener and the ski above more beautiful, it felt like freedom, and with every step Ryan grew more excited.
“Go long!” He heard a voice off in the distance before something hard hit him knocking him to the ground. He covered his head as a pair of long legs tripped over his body in an effort not to fall.
“Got it!” a voice called out with excitement. “Shit man,” he gasped looking down, “I’m sorry… are you okay?” He asked with worry in his voice.
Ryan was more stunned than hurt when he uncovered his face looking up into a dazzling pair of blue eyes.
“Yeah…yeah, I’m okay.” Ryan said a bit dazed still laying flat on his back. The tall handsome man clutched the football under his left arm and extended his right hand to help Ryan off the ground. Ryan took hold of his hand and with his aid hosted himself off the ground. Standing up still a bit shaken Ryan dusted the back of his jeans.
“You sure you’re okay?” He questioned once more raising an eyebrow curiously before turning his attention to the guys off in the distance yelling at him to throw the ball… “I’m coming…” He yelled taking a step back before throwing the football into the air and running off in their direction.
Ryan stood in awe everything happened so fast, he laughed giving himself a once over before heading back to the dorm.
Ryan finished his walk and made his way back to the dorms. As Ryan approached his room he noticed the door was ajar and the Black Eye Peas ‘I Got a Feeling,’ along with someone singing off key could be heard in the hall. A huge smile spread across his face as he peeked in and notice the back of a tall, lean guy with slightly long black curly hair dancing to the music while wrestling with a poster he’s trying to put on the wall.
Ryan watched the young man struggle with the poster that kept rolling up on the corners and laughed to himself being entertained as he cursed at it. “Hey let me help you.” Ryan walked in reaching over the young man’s shoulder causing him to jump.
“SHIT…FUCK…UGHHHH... The brunette lost his balance falling backward into Ryan’s chest dropping the push pins he was gripping between his teeth and releasing the poster causing it to roll back up completely. He looked over his shoulder at Ryan whose face registered shock, “Damn man, you scared the shit out of me.” He chuckled placing his hand over his heart as he tried to catch his breath.
“I...I’m sorry I didn’t mean to startle you.” Ryan said apologetically.
“Startle... hell, how about giving me a heart attack.” He laughed eyeing Ryan with a smile, “Hey, you must be my roomie.” He extended his hand to greet Ryan, “I’m Brye Masterson.” Brye stood about six feet, medium build, deep blue eyes and black thick curly hair that framed his face perfectly.
“Ryan Smith, it’s nice to meet you, oh and again I’m sorry about earlier.”
“Ah, no worries,” He glanced down at the poster, “You could help me hang up my babe though.” He snickered, picking up the poster of Rihanna, “She’s hot…you think?” Ryan nodded in agreement, as he held the poster in place against the wall while Brye pushed the pins in the top smoothing it out at the bottom before securing it.
“There.” He and Ryan stood back with their arms crossed over their chest admiring their work. “Is it straight?”
“Perfect.” Ryan nodded. Brye walked over to his bed plopping down.
“Hey I hope this is cool.” He said patting the bed.
“What?” Ryan asked as he unzipped his suitcase.
“Me getting the bed by the window, I figured if you have a problem with it we can switch, I get half the year, and you get half…cool?”
“I’m good; you can have the window the whole time.” Ryan suggested with a shrug of the shoulder as he placed folded undershirts and underwear in the top draw.
“So roomie, tell me a little bit about yourself, you know, where you’re from, what you like to do for fun, got a girlfriend or a boyfriend?” Brye winked with a smirk on his face catching Ryan off guard.
“Boyfriend?” Ryan drew his brows together in confusion.
“Or girlfriend…whatever.” Brye replied nonchalantly leaning his back against the window crossing one leg over the other.
“Wow… well let’s see.” Ryan cleared his throat and sat down on the bed facing Brye wondering how he could have known he was gay, was Brye gay too? “Um… I’m from Champaign, which is not too far from here. I don’t do anything really.” Ryan sighed. “Champaign is a really small town compared to this. I like to read and I want to major in Journalism.” He shrugged his shoulders. “What about you?” He asked pressing his lips together.
“Ahhh…you left one question unanswered.” Brye smirked.
“Oh, do I have a girlfriend-“
“Or boyfriend.” Brye interjected.
Ryan eyed his roommate carefully before asking the next question. “Why would you think I had a boyfriend?”
“I don’t, I just wondered, I mean it’s no big deal, really I was not trying to offend you or anything, my bad.” He held his hands up in defense.
“I’m not offended.” Ryan reassured him, “quite the contrary, and to answer yourquestion I don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend.” Ryan stressed the word boyfriend and returned to unpacking. “So…” He asked looking over his shoulder as he refolded a pair of jeans, “Tell me about you.”
“Me, well I was destined to go here, my father is an alumnus, and my brother is a junior here this year, he’s on the football team, he’s a running back...He’s pretty good too.” Brye said proudly. “And for fun, I do it all.” He laughed. “Oh and I don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend either.” He smirked, “But I’m hoping that will change, hell I’ve never been laid…you, I mean don’t get me wrong I’ve had lots of sex, I would just like to try it with a partner.” He laughed causing Ryan to laugh along.
“Yeah me either.” Ryan admitted.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea; let’s make it our own mission statement.”
“Okay,” Brye leaned in closer to Ryan like he was about to revile a big secret, “We’re going to strive to be the best students we can be, have as much fun as we can and get laid before winter break…Deal?” He held out his hand. Ryan bit his lower lip nervously wondering what he was getting himself into.
“What the hell, let’s do it.” Ryan agreed and they sealed it with a firm handshake. BAM! Without warning, the door to their dorm slammed open with force, startling both Ryan and Brye.
“Hellooo… Losers!” A voice called out.
Ryan looked up at the door as four men walked into their dorm. Each looking as if they had stepped out of a GQ magazine. One had a messy mop of ash blonde hair and playful pale eyes; he was carrying a big, brown paper bag. Another stood about 6’2” with a slight built, with red wavy hair and green eyes. The next had a very muscular build, chocolate brown skin, light hazel colored eyes, his hair shaved to a low fade and a deep dimple in his left cheek.
The last one, was the one Ryan had recognized from early; the guy that ran into him. Now that he could see him up close, he was more attractive than he remembered. His eyes seemed bluer, his skin flawless sporting a short cropped military cut, his body lean, yet defined with broad shoulders, the guy was amazing. Ryan felt nervous as he watched them make themselves comfortable, wondering if they had walked into the wrong room.
“Fuck you, Jaxson,” Brye laughed giving the one with the pale eyes the finger. The muscular black guy shook his head and squinted at Brye.
“Joel man, looks like I’m going to have to teach your little brother a lesson in respecting his elders.” He laughed.
“Nah, Tank, go easy on him, it’s his first day.” Joel said as he gave his little brother a wink before sitting down at the desk on Ryan’s side of the room.
“Yeah Melvin give me a break.” Brye teased, saying Melvin's name in a flirty tone. Ryan tried to suppress the smile trying to form on his lips, here this huge intimidating looking guy was named Melvin, no wonder they call him “Tank” it seemed to be more appropriate.
“See that’s the kind of shit I’m talking about right there.” Tank said glaring at Brye.
“Cool it Hot-shot,” Joel nodded to his brother, as he pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket reviewing a text he had just received, reading it with a smile. “Ahhh, I knew he would accept my offer.” Joel nodded with a sexy grin as he started to text a reply.
“Yeah, he’s such a punk.” Jaxson teased as he sat the brown paper bag down on Brye’s bed before taking a set.
“Hey.” Joel peeked over his phone with one brow raised. “He can’t resist the Masterson charm.” He defended jokingly.
“Yeah right.” Jaxson laughed as he pulled the twelve-pack of Budweiser from the bag. Ryan sat in awe at the scene playing out before him. “Hey want a beer,” he pulled a cold brew from the box.
“No thanks.” Ryan declined shaking his head still a little shocked.
“You sure?” Jaxson asked still holding the can out to Ryan.
“I’ll take it.” Brye said reaching for the can.
“Cool.” Jaxson pulled out another one and tossed it to the one called Tank, who tapped the top of the can before pulling the tab.
“Emmett,” Jaxson nodded to the quiet one with the red hair resting against the wall with one leg propped behind him. He caught it in mid air.
“Hey,” Joel said as he put his cell back in his jacket pocket, “Toss me one.” He nodded to Jaxson. “So Little bro how’s it going, you settling in okay…introduce us to your roommate.” Joel said leaning back in his chair.
Jaxson handed Ryan a beer “Pass that to Joel will you.”
“Um…sure.” Ryan smiled. “Here you go... I’m Ryan by the way.”
“Yeah that’s Ryan Smith.” Brye chimed in before taking a sip of his beer.
“Thanks,” Joel nodded, “Ryan eh…nice name…have we met?” Joel asked eyeing the handsome young man. He starred at him noticing how big and brown his eyes were and how when the light hit them just so he could see flex of green. Trying not to be too obvious Joel’s eyes inadvertently locked in on Ryan’s full lips watching as Ryan slowly ran his tongue over them, out of habit.
“Yeah, I’m the one-“
“Um…Emmett where is everyone meeting tonight?” Joel asked interrupting Ryan, diverting his attention away from the younger blond, he wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn he felt something different when their hands touched, but he just blew it off, he needed to.
Emmett was as tough as Tank, but as humorous as Jaxson, part of a fraternity like Joel and his friends, but he had the inside connections to a lot of underground college stuff which occasionally helped him and his friends.
“Well Brett over at Delta is throwing a private party tonight, its invitation only, we’re in if you wanna go.”
“We wanna go.” Brye interjected.
“Sorry no squirts allowed.” Emmett said with a genuine frown..
“Yeah, Joel man, once you finish with Jace, you should head over.” Tank added.
“Yeah, but don’t bring him…” Jaxson threw in “He’s way too uptight.”
“Nah…he’s cool, he’s just different.” Joel defended. “Anyway guys I’ll meet up with you later…duty calls…”
“You mean ‘Booty calls.” Tank chuckled into his hand.
“That too.” Joel smirked. “Hey Brye I’ll stop by later, oh and Ryan…is it?” Ryan nodded, “It was nice meeting you, don’t let that one.” He laughed pointing to his little brother, “Get you into trouble. "
“Wait up, we better head out too.” Tank said grabbing another beer.
“Yeah, we just wanted to stop by and welcome you to college life.” Jaxson laughed.
“So Ryan, see you around?” Emmett said holding out his hand to shake Ryan’s.
“Yeah,” Ryan answered shyly, “See you around.” He said running his fingers through his hair looking more at Joel when he made that statement. His longing stare may have gone unnoticed my Joel, but not Brye. The guys were heading out the door when Ryan called out,
“Hey guys…your beer.”
“We brought it for you… not that we are indorsing underage drinking, but we know you losers can’t get it on your own.” Jaxson laughed.
“Yeah, well bring rubbers next time.” Brye laughed jokingly.
Once the guys were gone, Ryan had this huge grin on his face. “So Joel is your brother?”
“Yeah,” Brye said grabbing another beer, “Here, they’re gone have a beer.” This time Ryan conceded.
“Sure….soooo Joel’s gay.”
“Yepp, Out and Proud…” Brye said taking a swig, “you don’t have a problem with him do you?” Brye asked already knowing the answer, he saw how Ryan was trying not to look at his brother.
“No, why would I?” Ryan questioned with a shrug of his shoulder.
“You shouldn’t” Brye laughed taking another sip.
“What do mean I shouldn’t?”
Brye motioned with his finger for Ryan to come closer. “I saw you looking at him, or trying not to look at him.” Brye whispered. “He gets that all the time.”
“Gets what?” Ryan asked opening his beer.
“My brother’s hot shit and you know it, and I know you’re gay.” He said with pride in his voice.
“So, you knew from just meeting me?” Ryan asked curiously.
“No, when I asked if you had a girlfriend or boyfriend I just ask everyone that, I guess having a brother that’s gay I’m just open minded. I don’t care either way."
“Hum…” Ryan sat back on his bed leaning his back against the wall.
“But once I saw how hard it was for you to look at Joel, I guessed it.”
“Wow, I better watch that.” Ryan laughed. “He didn’t seem interested in me anyway, it sounds like he has a boyfriend and I’m just a kid in his eyes.”
“Jace…no he’s not Joel’s boyfriend, they just hook up every now and then, I think.” He said rubbing his finger under his chin in thought.
“How do you know so much about his personal life?”
“Joel. Joel and I are tight…I love my brother, he’s cool.” Brye said with admiration.
“He seems cool; his friends seem okay with him being gay.”
“Why wouldn’t they be?”
“I don’t know, I guess,” Ryan paused, “when I came out, I lost a few friends. My mom had a hard time with it, but my dad was cool though.”
“Well my parents were totally cool; it was almost like they wanted to throw him a “coming out party.” Brye laughed. “My folks are very liberal, they were big into ‘self’, you know Woodstock, give peace a chance; that kind of shit, but I bring home a few D’s on my report card and all hell breaks loose, explain that.” Brye chuckled finishing off his beer, “Want another one.” Brye asked grabbing another for himself.
“Sure,” Ryan laughed, “but what do you say we scout the campus for something to eat first.” Ryan suggested. He was not much of a drinker and the one beer was giving him a slight buzz.
“Yeah that’s an idea; we can over to girls and co-ed dorms and check 'em out. Orientation is not till tomorrow, but we can get a jump on things, we have to get busy if we are going to get laid before winter break.” Brye laughed.
“Yeah.” Ryan agreed but not with as much enthusiasm as Brye.
“What, we can make it happen.” He said eyeing Ryan thoughtfully. “I’m sure Joel knows who’s who, we can feel him out…” Then Brye fell back on the bed with a hearty laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Ryan looked at Brye as if he had two heads.
Brye sat up laughing “Joel…”
“Joel…what about Joel?”
“Shit, don’t act like you’re not interested in my brother. He can be trusted, I say go for it.”
“What… nah.” Ryan waved his hand in the air dismissing the idea. Then he looked at Brye, “I can’t believe you would even suggest it….hump.”
“Why not, you’re looking to get laid, hell we both are, all we have to do it find a girl for me, not to mention Joel is the best one for the job I’ve known him all my life…I trust him.”
“Why do I have to be crazy?” He laughed. “I’m mean think about it…Do you, or don’t you find my brother attractive?”
“He’s more than alright and you know it…Hell,” Brye teased punching Ryan in the arm , “ if I was gay and he wasn’t my brother I’d go after him.”
“Owww…” Ryan laughed rubbing his arm. “Okay…okay he is better than alright, he’s pretty hot.” Ryan blushed.
“It’s settled. Now all we have to do is come up with a plan to get him into you.”
“Wait, what about you?”
”I don’t need any help, you’re the shy one here Smith.” Brye nudged Ryan’s shoulder knocking him off balance.
“Let’s get out of here you’re getting drunk.” Ryan teased.
“I’m not drunk yet, but I have a nice buzz and you my new best friend are becoming a kill joy.”
“Well someone’s gotta keep an eye on you…now let’s go.” Ryan laughed helping Brye to his feet.
“Look out world here we come and our hormones are raging out of control.” Brye snickered.
Ryan returned to their dorm after having showered and changed, now fully dressed and ready for today’s activities. His dress; casual, wearing a pair of faded jeans and a navy, cotton button down shirt that he wore unbuttoned and un-tucked over a simple white tee, his hair styled, though slightly damp, only to find his roommate still very much asleep.
Ryan woke up before the alarm went off; he was too excited to sleep. This was not a dream, this was his new reality. This would be the first of many chapters in his life and he was off to a wonderful start. He was very happy with how their night turned out, hanging out at the cantina eating spicy nachos and hot wings laughing and talking about everything.
Ryan realized he and Brye had a lot in common, a lot of the same likes and dislikes, moviesand music were at the top of that list, though they were as different as “night and day” Brye was the perfect roommate. They walked around campus locating the buildings in which their classes would be held trying to avoid a chaotic morning on the first day.
Even though it was pretty late into the evening there was still several students out and about, mingling amongst their peers enjoying the evening filled with excitement and anticipation at the days ahead. Once they returned back to their dorm, they had a couple more beers before heading off to bed, for Brye it was more than a couple, they talked until he finally passed out.
Meeting Brye’s brother Joel and his friends were the highlight of his first day on campus aside from meeting Brye of course. They all seemed pretty nice…crazy, but nice. Jaxson seemed to be the jokester among them, Tank, everyone needs a Tank; he was the protector/body guard in the clique. Emmett, was the quite one with the inside connections. Then there was Joel, drop dead gorgeous, he was the most handsome of them all. Ryan smiled as he remembered he and Brye’s pact to lose there virginity before winter break, which Brye seemed to think was very possible, too bad Ryan didn’t share his friends optimism . A small smile formed on his face at his roommates antics; this was going to be an interesting year to say the least.
He glanced at Brye who let out a slight moan as he repositioned himself pulling the covers up to his chest; Ryan smiled, and shook his head in amusement. He pulled out his journal and decided to write, taking advantage of the quite time.
He opened the burgundy leather binder, a gift from his grandmother, she wanted him to charter his journeys and that’s what he intended to do. He tapped his pen thoughtfully against his chin wondering where to start. He wrote the date at the left hand corner of the page and then wrote, ‘Chapter One.’ It seemed fitting being that this was the first day of the rest of his life.
Before he realized it, he had written three full pages front and back, time had slipped away. He glanced over to the clock on the wall which read 8:45am.
“Shit!” He spoke aloud he knew the cantina stopped serving breakfast at ten. “Brye!” He called back over his shoulder to his sleeping roommate as he put his journal away. “Brye man, wake up.” He said tapping him on the shoulder. His affords were met with a few irritating grunts before Brye pulled his pillow over his head.
“Brye, come on we’re going to miss breakfast.” Ryan could only hear muffled sounds coming from beneath the pillow and from the sound of it Brye was not a happy camper. The only words he could make out were ‘Damn it and shit.’ He snickered softly, walked to the foot of Brye’s bed to insure he was out of harms way, grabbed the corner of the bedspread and sheets, clutching in his fist and with a strong swift tug yanked the covers off his roommate.
“SHIT!” Brye sat straight up his chest heaving heavily, his eyes wide with shock. “Fuck Ryan… what you do that for?”
Ryan stood there blankets in hand laughing so hard he could barely speak, “We gotta get to the cantina before they stop serving breakfast, we have a busy day ahead of us.” He laughed tossing the covers on the bed.
“Damn, you could have just said, ‘Brye wake up’ you didn’t have to try to give me a heart attack.” He complained, “Oh…but I forgot that’s your signature isn’t it.” He glared. He sighed scratching his head. “Damn my head is killing me, how many beers did I have last night?” He eyed Ryan drawing his brows together.
Ryan examined his roommate, “I lost count.” Ryan admitted stepping in closer, “But you do look a little green.” He laughed.
“Ugh….” Brye signed falling back on the bed.
After what seemed like forever Brye was showered and dressed and they headed to the cantina. While going through the line Brye rested his head on Ryan’s back struggling to stand, the overhead lighting was bright and his head was throbbing. Ryan moved through the line slowly allowing his roommate to keep up.
“I’ll have a sausage, egg and cheese croissant with an orange juice please.” Ryan said politely to the lady on the other side of the steam table. The tap on his back along with a low mumble signaled him to order two. “Um…excuse me, make that two.” He giggled holding up two fingers.
Once at the register Ryan was about to pay when a folded twenty dollar bill came from around his waist. “Thanks.” He called back over his shoulder to Brye.
They found a table back in the corner and took their seat. Brye laid his head on the table and cover it with the hood of his grey sweat shirt. Ryan smiled at his friend and ate his breakfast quietly.
“Your food is getting cold.” Ryan said as he took a bite of his croissant.
“That’s okay; the smell is making me sick.” Brye mumbled from under his hood.
“Well you’re not going to feel better unless put something on your stomach.”
“I feel like shit.” Brye replied.
Ryan laughed taking a sip of his orange juice. He was about to swallow and almost choked when he saw the tall lean gorgeous body of Joel Masterson walk in. Ryan stared in awe enjoying the sight before him, the man was incredible from the top of his head down to his feet. He was wearing nothing special, but he looked damn good, he wore a pair of purple, knee length gym shorts and whitewashed tee shirt with a wildcat, the school’s mascot on the front.
It was as if Ryan developed tunnel vision, everything faded to black and the spot light was on Joel. Ryan watched his every move, the way he combed his fingers through his hair, the way he stood patiently in line listening to his Ipod. He wondered what kind of music he liked. Was it pop, hip-hop, rock or R&B? Did he like country western, or jazz, there was so much he wanted to know about him, the handsome brunette definitely intrigued him. He couldn’t help but notice how strong and muscular Joel’s arms and legs appeared. He watched Joel run his tongue over his bottom lip before biting on it, and wondered what his mouth would taste like, would feel like against his own.
He tried not to stare… not to get caught watching, but it was too late. Joel turned around and locked eyes on Ryan, dazzling blues meeting amazing browns. Ryan swallowed his juice and the lump in his throat and waved. “Busted.” He said under his breath. “Shit, he saw me, here he comes larger than life.” Ryan sighed.
“Hey.” Joel said as he uncapped his bottle of Gatorade.
“Um… hey.” Ryan looked up at the object of his desire.
“What’s up with him?” He nodded to his brother as he turned the bottle up to his lips.
“Tired.” Ryan said raising his eyebrows trying to sound convincing.
“Hung over is more like it.” Joel chuckled and pulled up a chair. “How much did he drink last night?” He asked shaking his head to the figure under the hoodie.
“I don’t know, about 4 or 5…I think.” Ryan shrugged his shoulders as he took a bite of his croissant.
“ My brother, the "feather weight"...Hey bro, you need to eat something.” Joel lowered his head trying to talk to Brye.
“Yeah, well maybe not,” Joel laughed, “but you’re going to feel like shit all day until you eat.”
“I feel like I want to throw up.” Brye said with his head still resting on the table.
“Then there you go. You can either try to eat something or go make yourself throw up; you’re not going to feel better until you do.”
“That’s what I told him.” Ryan said.
Joel nodded to Ryan, “Listen to your friend over here, he knows what he’s talking about.” Ryan smiled proudly and his heart swelled at the compliment.
“Hey you know,” Joel said directing his attention to Ryan, “I swear, it seems like we met before last night.” Joel said drawing his brows together tilting his head slightly trying to remember where he knew him from.
“Well…we did kind of meet, by accident.”
“Oh yeah?” Joel raised an eyebrow skeptically.
“Yeah, you kind of ran into me.” Ryan waited for a response but all he got was a confused look. “You were throwing the football out in the yard and slammed right into me.”
Joel’s mouth fell open, “okay yeah…place your hands over your head and look terrified.”
“Huh?” Now Ryan looked confused, Brye raised his head from the table to see what was going on.
“Put your hands like this.” Joel positioned his hand over his face as if he was trying to protect it. Brye shook his head and laughed, while Ryan tried to figure if Joel was serious or not.
“Seriously?” Ryan questioned.
"Just do it."
Ryan sighes and covers his face with his hands, peeking thru his fingers. "This is so mortifying." Ryan thought.
Joel reaches up and takes Ryan's hands from his face and smiled, "I was kidding, but now I remember you, sorry about that.”
No worries.” Ryan waved it off with a slight blush staining his cheeks.
“And you, mister, you look like death warmed over.” Joel said staring at Brye.
“Gee thanks.” Brye said as he picked up his cold sandwich.
“Anytime.” Joel laughed. Joel was about to say something when they heard a loud whistle from across the room and Joel’s name being called. They looked toward the door and there stood Tank and Emmett.
“Joel man, come on, can’t keep the coach waiting other wise we get extra laps.” Tank yelled.
“Gotta go ladies,” Joel teased, “off to practice.”
“Conditioning?” Brye asked chewing his food.
“Yeah…we’re doing two a day, got a big game next week. Later bro, see you around Ryan.” He waved and jogged off.
“I sure hope so.”Ryan thought to himself as he smiled and waved good bye.
After breakfast Ryan and Brye sat down on one of the stone benches, under a shady tree, outside of the orientation hall. Brye leaned back, casually resting his arm on the back of the bench and scanned the area. They saw students littered everywhere, mostly freshman, waiting to be allowed into the orientation hall. Some were standing around chatting; others were just standing quietly off to the side, books in hand. When nothing seemed to interest him, he leaned his head back, folded his hands behind his head, and closed his eyes.
Ryan looked around curiously and spotted a girl that looked to be eighteen. She stood about 5’5” and had long dark hair that reached mid-back. She wore a pair of square framed glasses, a powder blue sweater and a pair of denim jeans. The girl kept her books tight to her chest as she looked around.
Ryan leaned forward a bit and pointed, “What about her?”
Brye opened one eye and peered down at Ryan. He lifted and eyebrow confusedly. “What?”
Ryan gestured towards the girl he had been watching. Brye lifted his head up slightly, and looked to where Ryan was pointing. He spotted the girl wearing the glasses and then looked back at Ryan in disbelief.
“Are you shittin’ me?” He asked. Ryan’s eyebrows scrunched in confusion.
“No…” He shook his head. “What? She looks like a pretty nice, decent girl.”
Brye rolled his eyes at Ryan’s ignorance. “Dude, if I’m trying to get laid, nice and decent isn’t what I’m looking for.” He shook his head and chuckled, leaning back once again. “Besides, the chick’s probably a prude.”
This time, Ryan rolled his eyes at Brye. “Whatever, man,” He looked around again, trying to find another girl that met Brye’s standards. He spotted one girl with red hair. She was taller and wore a pink, floral, baby doll dress with a denim jacket and a pair of flip flops. Ryan thought she looked pretty cute and pointed her out.
Brye looked in the girl’s direction, analyzed, and then scrunched his face in disapproval, shaking his head. “Nah, man, do you see the beak on her?”
“Her nose looks fine, Brye,” Ryan countered. “You’re just being picky.”
“Sure, but I’d rather not make out with someone I’m constantly afraid is going to poke my eye out,” Brye said. Ryan sighed and smacked his forehead, dragging his hand down his face. Then he looked up once again, to look for another. He just wanted to help Brye find the right girl, but he had no idea what was wrong with the ones he had already pointed out.
Ryan then spotted a girl with jet black hair. She wore a pair of black dress pants and a white, button up dress top. At one final attempt, Ryan pointed her out and Brye looked in her direction.
“Bro, you sure can pick ‘em.” He said sarcastically.
“Well, what the hell do you want me to say, Brye?” Ryan asked exasperatedly. “I’m,” He paused, looked around and leaned closer. “Gay,” He whispered and then sat back up. “… It’s not like I’m any good at picking out datable women.”
“That’s for sure,” Brye chuckled. Ryan just rolled his eyes and sat back in defeat. He crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Brye.
“Ok, why don’t you pick one?” He challenged. Brye smirked and sat up straight.
“Alright,” He agreed and started looking around. His eyes landed on a busty, blonde woman wearing a white mini skirt and a pick Ralph Lauren polo, walking across the lawn. Brye smiled slyly and pointed her out to Ryan. “Now, there’s a fine woman.”
Ryan looked to where Brye pointed and raised an eyebrow. He watched as Brye stood up. “Uh, are you sure about this?” He asked skeptically.
“Sure, I’m sure,” Brye stated. “Just watch and learn,” He said and then headed over to the woman. Ryan leaned back and watched from a distance as Brye approached the woman casually. He couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he knew he was flirting with her. Suddenly, a human shadow cast over Ryan and he turned around curiously to find Jaxson, who was leaning on the bench from behind and watching the scene as well.
Without looking at Ryan, Jaxson asked, “What’s he doing?”
“Trying to get a date,” Ryan answered. They both watched as the woman giggled and playfully hit Brye’s shoulder. “Looks like he’s doing well,”
“Eeehh…” Jaxson shook his head. Ryan looked up at him questioningly. “That’s what you think, but look at the way she’s standing,” Jaxson pointed. “You see how her right foot is pivoted away from him? This is a sign that she’s trying to leave. Also, look at her body posture. Though her torso his facing him, her hips are slightly turned away from him, so now she’s standing at the side of him. This is a sign that she’s trying to talk quickly and is clearly not interested in him.”
Ryan looked closely, but didn’t see it. “What?” He asked confusedly. Jaxson rolled his eyes and shook his head. He then looked away from the scene and to the right. His eyes widened and he smiled widely.
“Ooh-ho-ho man,” Jaxson said excitedly. Ryan quickly looked up at him curiously. Jaxson slapped his arm a few times and pointed excitedly. “If you can’t tell from her body language, then maybe this guy will do the trick. Watch,”
They both watched as a muscular guy in a backwards baseball cap step up behind an unsuspecting Brye. He stood about a few inches taller. Ryan’s eyes widened with worry as they watched the guy tap Brye on the shoulder. Brye ignored him as he noticed the girl smile, thinking it was for him. The guy tapped his shoulder again. Brye, finally irritated, turned around. They watched as the guy yelled and the girl, obviously his girlfriend, tried to calm him.
“Hey, do you think we should help him?” Ryan asked, about to stand. Jaxson grabbed his arm, halting his movements.
“No, no, just watch,” He insisted.
Eventually, the woman was able to drag him away, apologizing profusely to Brye who did not look at all happy as he walked back over to Ryan and, now, Jaxson. Ryan was trying his hardest not to laugh, but Jaxson was laughing loudly.
“Shut-up!” Brye hissed as he plopped down on the bench. Jaxson choked back his laugh and wiped a tear.
“Oh, I’m sorry man, but you set yourself up for that one.” He chuckled. Ryan shook his head and clamped his hand over his mouth to hide his smile. Bryeturned his icy glare to him.
“You think this is funny too?” He challenged. The smile dropped from Ryan’s face and he held his hands up in defeat.
“Hey, don’t get mad at me,” He said. Jaxson sat himself next to Brye as his laughter faded to a soft chuckle.
“Listen man, let me tell you what you did wrong,” He said as Brye just glared at the ground. “That was Chelsea Daniels,”
“I know her name,” Brye interrupted with agitation.
“Yeah, but she’s a senior, which means she is way out of your league,” Jaxson explained. Brye rested his head in his palms.
“Yeah, thanks,” He said sarcastically. Jaxson leaned forward and rested a hand on his knee.
“So, what’s this all about anyway?”
Brye and Ryan looked at each other and had a silent agreement not to tell the whole truth.
“Oh, Brye’s just looking for a girl, is all,” Ryan answered and Brye nodded.
“Really?” Jaxson asked and they nodded. “Hey, I can help you. I know a lot of females around here that would be interested.” He suggested. Brye raised a skeptical eyebrow at him.
“Um, I don’t know…” He said hesitantly. “I’m not usually for the blind dating thing.”
“Oh, come on, it’ll be great!” Jaxson encouraged. Brye thought about it for a moment and then nodded.
“Alright, but no funny business, I know how you are.” He said. Jaxson raised his hands in defense.
“No problem, man, all seriousness here,” He said and turned to Ryan. “What about you? I could help you out too.”
“Ehhh, no thanks,” Ryan shook his head.
“Don’t worry about him, I’ve got him covered.” Brye added
“Oh…like you can find him a girl, hell you can’t even find yourself a girl.” Jaxson shrugged.
“Who said anything about finding him a girl?” Brye asked nonchalantly. Ryan gasped at the statement.
“Um…” Ryan started to speak but Jaxson interrupted him.
“Oh well, I don’t know many guys that you’d like anyway,” He then leaned back casually. Ryan and Brye stared at him wide eyed, but Jaxson didn’t look the least bit ashamed. “How many gay guys do you kno-“Jaxson stopped in mid sentence, “Wait,” He eyed the boys suspiciously. “How many guys do you know…hum…besides your brother?” He looked from Brye to Ryan then to Brye with a challenging glance.
“Um…I don’t.” Brye admitted, “But I’m sure we will be fine.” He said dismissively.
“Well you can always ask Joel, hell he knows every gay guy on campus.” Jaxson laughed. “I’m sure he has a little black book with all the listings, shit there must be some secret handshake or something.”
“You’re stupid.” Brye sighed shaking his head in disbelief.
“No seriously,” Jaxson said indeed trying to look serious, “They find out that number ‘21’ is gay and hell all the guys show up on our doorstep,” Ryan and Brye both laughed at Jaxson knowing he had to be kidding. “Okay so explain why I had to send a twelve year little boy old home the other day, damn… the little man heard Joel was gay and wanted in on some action too.” He joked with a hearty laugh.
“What ever.” Brye waved, “Like I said, we got this covered.” Ryan nodded in agreement.
“Okayyy.” Jaxson held his hands up in defeat, “Don’t say I didn’t try.” He stood up to leave, “Anyway losers, I gotta go…check you later.” Ryan and Brye waved good bye and watched him jog off in the direction of the gym.
“Well, you ready to head inside?” Ryan asked as he checked the time on his cell phone.
Brye stood up, he rolled his shoulders slowly and stretched his neck as he yawned tiredly and sighed. “Yeah, let’s get this party started.” As they were making their way across the yard they noticed a tall, distinguished handsome young man with blond curly hair, heading in their direction. He wore a pair of khaki slacks with a navy blazer over a white polo shirt, and what looked like a pin of some sort on the lapel of his jacket.
“Masterson... Smith.” He called out in a pleasant voice getting their attention as he walked swiftly to them stopping them in their tracks.
“Who wants to know?” Brye asked, as he and Ryan eyed him suspiciously.
“I’m Colin Mitchell.” He introduced himself and extended his hand to greet them. Brye looked down at his hand, but did not return the gesture.
“How do you know us?” Ryan asked with a cautious shrug for this shoulder. Brye gave a short nod glaring into Colin’s blue eyes.
“Yeah?” Brye said placing his hand on Ryan’s shoulder.
“Well, Um…can we sit down for a moment,” He nodded toward the bench where Ryan and Brye just came from.
“Well, we really need to be going, we have orientation.” Brye said lightly pushing Ryan forward.
“I know, and I promise not to be long, and I think you both will be interested in my offer.” He smiled with confidence peaking both Ryan and Brye’s curiosity. The three walked back to the bench and sat down to listen to what the young man had to say.
After he finished the conversation he shook hands with them and waited till they were inside the building and out sight before he pulled out his cell phone, he scanned his contacts until he found the name he was looking for and hit the talk button. He glanced around casually shoving his hand in the pocket of his pants checking out all the freshman girls as he waited for his party to answer.
“Hey, it’s done… their in.” He nodded as he walked away continuing the conversation.
To say the first week of school went over without a hitch would be an overstatement. Brye thought he had it all figured out and on the first day of classes he came to the sad realization that he didn’t, even after he and Ryan scouted the place out. He was late to most of his classes due to taking a wrong turn and ending up in the wrong building or on the other side of the campus.
He prided himself for being on time to his calculus class only to find out that it didn’t start for another hour, he sighed and slumped down in his chair, running his fingers through his hair with frustration, thinking what else could possibly go wrong, the only thing he had to look forward to was the weekend. Jaxson had set him up with his first date or conquest hopefully he would score and beat the winter break deadline.
Ryan was not fairing much better; schedule changes that conflicted with other required courses aggravated him greatly, but what infuriated him the most was receiving the required reading list for his literature class that consisted of 14 books that he was to read and give a full book report on by the end of the semester.
The bright side to Ryan’s week, the only one so far, was the fact that he made the swim team. From a young age, Ryan had a natural love for the water. His father taught him how to swim at the tender age of two.
It seemed everyone was busy. Ryan and Brye only saw each other as much as they did because they were roommates. Joel often crossed Ryan’s mind. He wondered how he was doing with his first week. It seemed the only time he saw him was in passing or in the locker room or if he caught a glimpse of him on the field with the rest of his teammates during practice.
His swim team usually met around the same time as the football team but all they seemed to have time for was a quick hello. He wondered if he and Joel would ever have time together, not just because of the pact he and Brye made, but because he really liked Joel. What was not to like? He was well liked around campus, and he was cool not to mention he had the looks and the brains to go with it... Ryan started to wonder if maybe this “getting laid” thing was a good idea. After all, he wanted his first time to be special.
By the time, Friday rolled around Joel was all set and rearing to go, he had no complaints about any of his classes, he knew he would ace them as he always did, and he was pumped and ready for the big game on Monday. His coach wanted him to stop by his office and pick up some additional plays to review over the weekend before the big game against their rival team.
He sat patiently waiting in the coach’s office for him to arrive while reading some random sports magazine when he heard the sound of someone in the pool. He placed the magazine on the table and walked over to the window that over looked the pool area. He smiled as he noticed the person in the pool was none other than Ryan. He figured Ryan was trying to get in some extra practice; because the swim team was not scheduled any more this week.
Joel stood quietly as he watched the young blond move swiftly through the water. Unaware he had audience; Ryan pushed himself out of the pool giving himself a once over, slowing running his hand up and down his leg, then over his arms examining them carefully causing Joel wonder if he was feeling for something in particular. He combed his fingers through his wet hair removing the stray strains from his eyes and walked back to the edge of the pool leaving a wet trail of foot prints along the way. He tugged gently on his swim trunks, positioned himself closer to the edge, rolling his shoulders slowly before diving in.
Joel walked out into the hallway to get a closer view. He noticed the strength in Ryan’s arms, the cupped position of his hands, his form; perfect as he mastered the breast stroke. The strong muscles in his back and legs revealed that Ryan was indeed a seasoned swimmer.
Leaning against the wall, Joel crossed his arms over his chest and one leg over the other, smiling as he enjoyed the private show. He chuckled softly thinking back to the day he ran into Ryan at the cantina and how innocent and shy he appeared, but not today…today Ryan was confident, totally in control, fearless even, which was a turn on to Joel, he loved a man that was self assured. He shook his head dismissively reminding himself that Ryan was his younger bother’s friend and getting involved with him could get messy, and as far as he knew Ryan was straight anyway.
“Hey what’s up?” Jaxson asked quietly peering over Joel’s shoulder, who in turn gave a quick nod toward the pool not taking his eyes off Ryan. “Wow is that Ryan?” Jaxson questioned, impressed.
“Yeah,” Joel smiled proudly, unsure why.
“Wow… he’s good.” Jaxson complemented.
“Yeah,” Joel agreed nodding slowly. Ryan did a couple more laps before exiting the pool and noticed Joel and Jaxson standing there watching him, he gave a slow wave and a warm smile as he reached for his towel. Joel could not take his eyes of him.
“Hey,” Jaxson bumped his shoulder into Joel’s, “I’m heading out…you coming?”
“Nah, I’ve got to pick up some plays for Monday’s game from Coach Jackson, I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Okay…cool.” Jaxson turned to leave, then stopped. “Hey by the way, you know anyone you could hook Ryan up with?”
“Huh?” Joel turned to face his friend, “Why would I know someone, wouldn’t that be your department Mr. “Match Maker?” Joel laughed using air quotes.
“Not this time bro, Ryan-y here plays for your team.” Jaxson laughed jokingly.
“Really?” Joel asked raising an eyebrow, intrigued. Jaxson looked at him and smirked slyly. “How do you know?”
“How do you not know?” Jaxson laughed. “You’re losing your touch Masterson.”
“Shut the hell up.” Joel said turning his attention back at Ryan.
"Hey, man, you gonna try to hit that?" He joked, nudging Joel’s shoulder.
"Good-bye, Jaxson." Joel deadpanned and Jaxson laughed loudly, turning to leave.
Joel watched as Ryan ran the towel through his hair, they shared a smile and an intimate glance before Joel heard the brawly deep voice of Coach Jackson coming down the hall.
Joel was coming out of the building after his meeting with the Coach when he heard someone call his name.
“Hey Joel, wait up.” Ryan called, briskly walking up behind him.
“Oh hey, Ryan.” Joel smiled, “How’s it going?” He asked as he adjusted the strap of his backpack over his shoulder.
“It’s going…” Ryan sighed shaking his head, “It’s been a pretty hectic week…Nobody told me there’d be days like these.” Ryan laughed running his fingers through his still damp hair.
“Strange days indeed.” Joel chuckled reciting the rest of the verse to John Lennon’s song, ‘Nobody Told Me.’”
“You know that song?” Ryan smiled shyly, “I thought I was the only John Lennon fan in my generation.” He laughed.
“Hell, are you kidding me….” Joel waved his hand dismissively through the air. “Shit, you haven’t met my parents, that’s all we grew up on…The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors…The Who…Sly and The Family Stones... my parents were-”
“Hippies…flower children of the sixties.” Ryan added.
“Yeah…yeah, though I consider them more ‘Counterculture.’ ”
“I get it….” Ryan nodded.
“What about yours?” Joel asked leaning against the railing of the steps making himself comfortable resting his back on the concrete siding.
“Me… mine are not as exciting as your parents,” Ryan laughed. “But they do okay. They are more conservative.” Ryan answered pressing his lips together. Joel smiled as he listened, this was the first time he and Ryan held a conversation alone and it was nice, Ryan had a hearty contagious laugh and a smile that could light the world or at least Joel’s anyway.
“So how did you develop your excellent taste in music?” Joel crossed one leg over the other, crossing his arms over his chest leaning his body forward coming into Ryan’s personal space; he tilted his head slightly biting on his lower lip waiting for answer.
“I don’t know actually,” Ryan, thought scratching the back of his head, “I watched some clips of American Band Stand on YouTube.” He laughed. “And believe it or not I ordered the complete box set of Time Life Music Classics.” He bobbed his head, as he shoved his hand in the pocket of his jeans.
“Really…no shit.” Joel said with fascination. He leaned back laughing into his hand. “Now that’s cool, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has ever ordered from there…wow.” Joel grinned.
“Thanks, now I feel like such a dork.” Ryan shook his head with embarrassment.
“But a cute dork.” Joel said without thinking, causing a huge smile to form on Ryan's face, now he was the one who felt like a dork. “Um... What I meant was-”
“Hey, Joel!” A voice called off in the distance. Ryan and Joel looked toward a handsome guy strolling across the yard.
“There you are.” The young man said as he approached them,
“Oh, hey Jace.” Joel said. Jace was just a little shorter than Joel was.
He was slender, yet very toned with light brown hair that he wore short on the sides and in the back, mused and a little longer in the front, his eyes were an amazing hazel color with flecks of green.
“Joel,” He sighed standing toe to toe with the brunette. “You stood me up again. What’s up with that?” He questioned, then glared at Ryan. “And who’s he?”
“Jace, I told you I might stop by.” Joel said defensively. “And this is Ryan, my brother’s friend and roommate. Ryan, Jace…Jace, Ryan.” He nodded to each of the guys.
“Hi.” Ryan said
“Um…So, Joel, you’re into babysitting now?” Jace asked ignoring Ryan’s greeting.
“Okayyy.” Ryan chuckled under his breath. Joel just rolled his eyes and sighed.
“I don’t think Ryan’s needs a babysitter, Jace.” He said looking apologetically at Ryan. “Don’t be mean.” Joel chastised him.
“Hello… Ryan… is it?” Jace sighed begrudgingly. “Happy now?” Jace said crossing his arms over his chest.
“Not really, but if that’s the best you can do, then oh well.” Joel said shaking his head.
“No worries, I’ve got to be going anyway.” Ryan shrugged his left shoulder. “Um… Joel, I’ll see you around.” He said in more of a statement than a question, shyly biting the inside of cheek. Jace eyed Joel waiting to hear his response.
“Yeah, of course, Ryan.” Joel smiled. “Oh and Ryan I’m sorry you had a rough first week, it gets better I promise.”
“Really?” Ryan asked skeptically, as Jace grimaced trying to hide his jealously while watching Ryan and Joel.
“Really…” Joel repeated reassuringly.
“Joel, come on we’ve got to get going, you’ve kept me waiting long enough.” He smirked at Ryan, as he pulled Joel by the arm.
“Okay… okay.” Joel sighed as he was being dragged away, “And Ryan… really, I
’llguarantee it.” He said in low sexy tone, causing a smile to form on Ryan’s lips, Jace just sighed with frustration.
“I’ll see you around.” Joel said. Ryan waved goodbye and watched as Joel and Jace walked away, getting further and further from him with every step.
Ryan folded his hands behind his head and leaned back against the headboard of his bed as he watched Brye standing in front of the mirror, combing his fingers through his hair. That morning, Jaxson announced that he had found a girl that would be nice for Brye. Ryan was a little skeptical and didn’t trust Jaxson at all. Brye, on the other hand, was ecstatic. He couldn’t believe his luck.
“What do you think?” Brye asked as he turned away from the mirror to face Ryan. He stood there awkwardly as Ryan inspected his outfit. Brye was wearing a black, button-down dress shirt, with a couple of buttons unbuttoned at the top, and a pair of dark denim jeans and black shoes.
“I think… you haven’t thought this through.” Ryan admitted. “Are you sure about this?”
Brye looked insulted and scoffed. “Of course I’m sure about this.” He stated defensively. “Besides,” He said, turning to face the mirror again. “I think I look pretty damn good.” He gave himself the wink and the gun. “Oh yeah, if I were a girl, I would totally date me.”
“Are you sure you’re not gay?” Ryan asked, raising an eyebrow teasingly. Brye turned to glare at him and Ryan held up his hands in defense. “Hey, I’m just saying…”
“Yeah well, who asked you?” Brye asked.
“Uh… you,” Ryan deadpanned. Brye huffed and continued to inspect himself in the mirror.
“So, who is this girl?” Ryan asked.
“She’s a friend of Jaxson’s I think,” Brye answered. “Her name’s Candi.” He bounced his eyebrows suggestively. Ryan eyed him skeptically.
“Candi?” Ryan scrunched his nose. “What did Jaxson tell you about her?”
“That she stands about 5’6,” blonde, and curvaceous,” Brye said with satisfaction. Ryan raised an eyebrow, expecting him to continue. “What?” Brye asked.
“And what else?” Ryan questioned.
“That’s about it,”
“You only asked about her looks?”
“Well, hell, if I’m going to bed someone, I would at least like them to be decent to look at.” Brye stated as if it were obvious.
“What about personality?” Ryan asked. Byre raised a confused eyebrow. “You know, what’s on the inside.” Ryan explained and Brye rolled his eyes.
“I know what you mean, bro, I’m just wondering why it matters if the goal is to get laid.” He said. Ryan rolled his eyes.
Brye just waved him away and looked at his watch.
“Oh, shit, I’m going to be late,” He panicked. Ryan quickly sat up, resting on his hands.
“So, where are you going?” He asked.
“Jaxson told me that I was to meet her at a nearby restaurant called Baytown Seafood.”
“Oh,” Ryan thought for a moment and then smiled. “Well, have fun.”
“Wish me luck,” Brye said and opened the dorm door.
“Good luck,” Ryan called just before the door closed behind Brye
“Hey,” Jace said with disappointment as he came out of the restroom still undressed to see Joel pulling up his jeans. “Where you going?”
“I got stuff to do.” Joel answered while zipping up his jeans.
“What stuff? I thought we could order a pizza and drink a few beers and watch a game.” Jace suggested as he sat down on the bed next to Joel who was tying his shoes.
“Not tonight, I’m meeting the boys.” Joel said as he looked around for his wallet.
“The boys.” Jace sighed. “It’s always the boys.”
“Listen Jace, you knew the deal coming into this.” Joel reminded him.
“Yeah, I know, but one day Joel I’m gonna say no.”
“Then say no…it’s cool, but remember… you came looking for me today, and I came back with you because I wanted to.” Joel said, with inflection of tone.
“No, you came because you wanted to fuck.” Jace retorted.
“I admit it, I did, plus I love that thing you do, you know… that thing the way you grab hold… Um…you know.” Joel teased, winking with a sexy grin as he pulled his shirt down over his head.
“You don’t care about me at all… do you?” Jace asked with conviction.
“I do care, Jace, but we both agreed it was not that deep.” Joel reminded him as he sat back down on the bed.
“I know,” Jace said sounded defeated, “I just thought….” His voice trailed off leaving the statement hanging. Joel placed his hand on Jace’s thigh and caressed it gently. He tilted his head slightly trying to make eye contact.
“You thought what?” He asked with concern. He knew what Jace wanted, he just couldn’t commit, not now, not to Jace anyway. “You thought what?” He repeated softly.
Jace took in a huge breath of air and blew it out slowly before speaking. “I don’t know what I thought Joel…I guess I want more than to be your fuck-buddy.”
“I understand, believe me I do…That’s just too deep for me right now. I mean we’re young, we have plenty of time for that when we’re older.” He shrugged his shoulder squeezing Jace’s thigh.
“Not to mention all the other guys you want to fuck.” Jace fired back.
“I don’t have time for this Jace, you knew you weren’t the only one-“Before he could finish his statement his phone vibrated indicating he had a text message. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and laughed as he read the message as he started to text a reply. Jace tried to look over his shoulder to see whom it was from.
“Who is it?” He asked softening the sound of his tone.
“It’s Emmett,” Joel explained. “I gotta go, we’ll finish this later.”
“Later like this weekend.” Jace asked hopefully.
“No, not this weekend, I’ve got to get ready for the game on Monday.”
“So let me get this straight, the only night you have free, you want to spend it with the guys…great.” Jace rolled his eyes toward the ceiling.
Joel sighed shaking his head.
“Why don’t you just leave some money on the nightstand, since that’s what you treat me like...” Jace suggested bitterly.
“Don’t be silly,” Joel, advised. “All I have is a debit card.” He teased trying to ease the tension. He cupped Jace’s face in the palm of his hands, looking thoughtfully into his eyes before gently kissing him. Jace closed his eyes enjoying the taste of Joel’s mouth against his own, allowing his tongue access into his. The kiss was anything but sweet, it was more desperate…Jace let out a soft moan when Joel pulled away, leaving him pleading for more. He ran his tongue over his lips still feeling Joel’s pressed against them. His eyes slowly fluttered open when he heard the sound of Joel’s voice.
“I’ll call you later.” He promised kissing the top of Jace’s head before grabbing his jacket. Joel glanced back over his shoulder one last time before letting himself out.
Brye arrived at the restaurant, which was only a few blocks away, and walked inside. He stood awkwardly for a moment, looking around. The place was decorated in blues and greens with a few tables and booths. Fishnets hung from the walls near the ceiling and were decorated with seashells and starfish. Typical seafood eatery. Brye spotted a woman sitting alone at a booth and he smiled. She kept her head down as she inspected her nails, causing her blonde hair to fall in a curtain down the sides of her face. Brye took a deep breath, and began taking long strides over to where she sat comfortably.
“Hello,” He greeted unsurely. The woman looked up at him with bright eyes and a white smile.
“Hi,” She said simply. “May I help you?”
“Uh, maybe,” Brye said smoothly, sticking his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Is your name Candi?”
“Oh my gosh, how did you know?!” Candi shrieked. Brye jumped a little, taken aback by her sudden outburst. He stood there, wide-eyed for a second before taking a deep breath and running a nervous hand through his hair.
“Well, my name is Brye, I was told by Jaxson to meet you here. Uh, you know Jaxson, right?” He asked. Candi’s eyes widened with recognition and she smiled widely.
“Oh! You’re Brye,” She clarified and Brye nodded. “Well, it’s nice to meet you,” She greeted and stuck out her hand. “I’m Candi,”
Byre was puzzled as he shook her hand hesitantly. “Yes, I know…”
Candi brushed her hair over her shoulder and gestured to the seat in front of her. “Well, why don’t you have a seat?”
“Alright,” Brye said and easily slid into the booth. They sat there quietly for a moment, just staring at each other. Well, Brye was watching as Candi inspected her manicure with great interest. Not wanting to sit in silence, Brye cleared his throat to get her attention. She looked up at him questioningly.
“Uh, so, how long have you known Jaxson?” Brye asked trying to make conversation. Candi smiled and rested her elbows on the table and her chin in her folded hands.
“We met one night at a party… tons of fun!” She gushed. “That was maybe…” She paused to think. “Six months ago…”
“You’ve only known Jaxson for six months?” Brye asked with shock. Candi just shrugged as the server approached their table.
“Hello, my name’s Ally, I’ll be your server for this evening,” Ally introduced as she laid napkins, menus and silverware on the table. “Can I start you guys off with something to drink?”
“Um, ladies first,” Brye gestured to Candi.
“For you, miss?” Ally asked taking out her notepad and a pen. They watched as Candi inspected the menu carefully.
“Let’s see….” She thought aloud. “Ooh! The Limey sounds interesting. What’s in it?”
“Well, it’s a blend of lemon and lime juices with egg white, vodka and ice cubes,” Ally explained.
“Oh, well I’d like that, then, please,” Candi requested. Ally nodded.
“Ok, I’d just like to see your ID,” She said and Candi pulled her wallet out of her purse, showing her ID. Ally inspected it carefully and then gave it back.
“Alright, and what can I get you, sir?” She asked turning to Brye, who was unresponsive. This whole time he was just staring at Candi with surprise, his mouth agape, and his eyes wide. “Uh, sir?” Ally questioned uncertainly, trying to get his attention.
Brye shook his head, blinking quickly and then looking at Ally. “Uh… Coke, please,” He requested.
“Alright, those drinks should be out in a minute,” Ally smiled and walked away to another table. Brye turned his attention back to Candi.
“Ok, exactly how old are you?” He asked.
“Twenty-one,” Candi answered slowly. “Duh,”
“Oh…” Brye took in this information. At first he thought that this was a bad idea, with him only being eighteen. Then, he realized that he was a legal adult and was on a date with an older woman, and his confidence returned tenfold. He leaned back into his seat, a sly grin on his face, and rested an arm on the table in front of him. “So, you see anything you like?” Brye asked picking up the menu.
“I don’t know, most of the stuff on the menu has calories…” Candi said. Brye looked up at her from the top of the menu and raised a brow.
“Uh… yeah, food typically does…” Brye responded.
“I know and it sucks,” Candi whined and looked over the menu. “Maybe I’ll just get a salad. At least it won’t completely do me in.” She contemplated. “Or maybe I’ll have the Norwegian salmon. Do you think they really ship that all the way from Norwegia?”
Brye pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. “Uh, I think you mean Norway, and yes, they ship it from there.”
“Oh,” Candi said simply. Brye just took a deep breath… clearly this girl, er, woman, was not all the way there.
“So…” He started. “Do you go to Northwestern too?”
“Um, yes, actually, but I’m on break.” Candi answered. This puzzled Brye.
“Wait, how can you be on break? School just started,” Brye pointed out. Candi just shrugged. “Ok…” Brye murmured slowly and nodded, not really sure of what to say next.
Brye just nodded. “So, what are you doing with your… free time?”
“I dance,” Candi answered with confidence. This sparked an interest in Brye and he sat up with curiosity and smiled.
“A dancer… really? What type of dance?” Brye asked. “Hip-Hop, Classic, Pop, Jazz, Ballet…” He listed.
“All types,” Candi said. “It all depends on the theme of the day.”
“The theme?” Brye asked, confused.
“Yeah,” Candi nodded. “Although, I typically stay away from the Ballet, I don’t think it would be much appreciated.”
Suddenly, Ally returned with their drinks, placing them on the table, with a side glass of water for Candi. “Alright, are you guys ready to order?” She asked. Brye nodded and glanced at Candi.
“I think I’ll have the Caesar salad,” Candi said. Ally nodded, writing it down and turning to Brye.
“I’ll have the fried catfish with a side of coleslaw and French fries.” Brye ordered.
“Ok, I’ll get those to you as soon as possible,” Ally smiled. “Just let me take those menus out of your way,” She said and they handed their menus to her and she walked away. Candi took a sip of her drink, closing her eyes.
“Mmm, this is really good,” She sighed. Brye sat there awkwardly sipping his Coke.
“So, Candi, tell me more about yourself.” He suggested. Candi sat her drink on the table and thought for a moment.
“Well, I was born in Dallas , Texas and lived there for about 13 years before I moved up to Tennessee with my mother after her and my father separated.” Candi explained.
“Oh, I’m sorry, that must have been sad for you,” Brye consoled.
“No,” Candi shook her head. “Not really, my dad was a douche, anyways.” She answered. Brye was stunned about how she insulted her father so openly.
“I guess you didn’t like him that much.” He stated.
“Oh, heavens no, I loved my father.” Candi objected, causing Brye to rub the back of his neck nervously. “Anyways, we only stayed in Tennessee for about a year and then moved here to Illinois . In high school I was on the cheerleading squad. I was always on top of the pyramid!” She squealed.
“That’s nice,” Brye said. “In high school, I was on the soccer team.”
“But… you’re not Hispanic,” Candi said confusedly. Brye gave her an incredulous look and shook his head, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Yeah… guess that’s why they kicked me off the team.” He sighed wearily.
“Yeah,” Candi agreed, taking sips of her drink. “Well, anyways, I took up dancing when I was seventeen. A friend of mine introduced me to it at a party. Because I was a cheerleader, I picked it up quickly.”
“Yeah, I heard that cheerleaders are typically good dancers. Something about good balance and rhythm,” Byre said. Candi nodded.
“Yup, it takes a lot of balance and if you don’t have rhythm, then you just work the crowd.”
“Oh, so you interact with the audience?” Brye asked.
“Yup, you have to if you’re too clumsy for the stage.”
“Wow, that’s interesting,” Brye thought aloud. “So, do you travel? I know with dancing you have to travel to different places and perform.
“Um, I don’t know about all that,” Candi said. “I didn’t even think that was possible. But, no, I don’t travel, I just stay here.”
“Where do you perform?” Brye asked taking a sip of his Coke.
“At Triple X,”
Coca-cola sprayed from Byre’s mouth as he spit his drink from his mouth from shock, going into a coughing fit.
“Hey, you nearly spat on my dress!” Candi shrieked. Brye finally calmed down and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Triple X is a strip club,” Brye pointed out.
“Uh, duh, where else would I dance?”
“You’re a s-s-stripper?” Brye stuttered. Candi shrugged as if it were obvious.
“Yes, I already said that.” She stated with irritation.
“Exactly, how did you meet Jaxson?” Brye asked with bewilderment.
“At a party silly,” Candi giggled. “I was the entertainment,”
Brye sighed and planted his face in his hand, shaking his head wearily. He desperately needed something to calm his nerves. Hethen looked up at a passing waiter and called to him.
“Um, excuse me; can I get a beer please?” He asked. The waiter eyed him carefully, squinting at him.
“Uh, how old are you?” He asked.
“Twenty-one,” Brye answered as if he were offended. The waiter looked at him disbelievingly.
“Yeah, I don’t think so, kid,” He said and walked away. Brye glanced back at Candi in defeat who was once again refocused on her French manicure.
This was going to be a long night…
Ryan lay on his bed waiting for Brye to return from his date, thinking about his first week. He reached over to the desk and pulled open the drawer where he kept his journal.
He opened it, thought for a moment and as usual wrote the date in the left corner.
“What a week…everything that could have gone wrong did. I had to change my entire schedule which was almost a disaster, but luckily it all worked out. I have an amazing counselor. I also received my reading list for my literature class; my professor must be out of his mind, but oh well. I was only late for two of my classes, just got turned around that’s all.
They say to everything there is a sliver lining, that being true I have to say mine was Joel Masterson. Wow... just writing his name caused my heart to flutter and this stupid grin to attack my face. Before today I would have said he never noticed me… but that was before today. Yes Joel noticed me... me, I can’t believe it, but I saw it with my own eyes in his eyes.
Some might say I’m reading too much into it, and maybe I am, I don’t care. We actually talked, not long or about anything important, but we talked. I was a dead man, I tried not to look into his eyes, his piercing blue eyes as he talked and I didn’t want to stare at his mouth, what a lovely mouth it is…
“Oh Hey.” Ryan lifted his pen from the paper, looking up as he heard Brye enter. He closed the book and sat it aside. “So how’d it go?” Ryan asked with excitement.
“…Don’t ask.” Brye sighed kicking off his shoes and plopped face down on the bed burring his face in his pillow.
“That good eh?” Ryan laughed as he got off his bed and sat down on Brye’s.
“Jaxson is a dead man.”
“Wow…” Was all Ryan could muster, he was speechless.
“Yeah…wow.” Brye repeated disappointedly.
“Hey, want to go see a movie this weekend?” Ryan suggested.
“Sure…why not.” Brye laughed humorlessly, “and you know what’s sad, is you’ll probably be the best I'll have all weekend.” Brye sighed.
“Alright boys I’m outta here.” Joel said as he collected his winnings from the Poker game.
“Hell nah…man you can’t just take the money and run.” Tank objected, leaning back in his chair.
“Fuck…it’s my money and I’m not running... I’m walking.” Joel laughed as he shoved the money in his pocket.
“Hey I’m coming by tomorrow to check out that DVD Coach gave you.” Emmett reminded him. Emmett was the “Kicker” for the team.
“Oh yeah…that’s cool.” Joel replied, “Hey Jaxson I’ll see back at the dorm man.” Joel grabbed a couple of beers as he headed out.
“Cool."Jaxson said taking a sip of his drink. “Deal up losers.” He chuckled.
Joel walked through the campus, laughter and idle chatter could be heard amongst the students that were littered about. He decided to take the long way back to his dorm. The week had been pretty easy for him. He thought about Brye and Ryan and how the first week could be a bit intimidating, but he had hoped they would be fine,…he and he friends to would see to it.
“He shook his head in spite of himself when he found himself standing in front of their dorm. Joel felt like a "Peeping Tom" as he peered into their window, unsure why he was even there… Was he self-consciously trying to see Ryan again? He noticed the light shining from their window and fought the urge to go inside. Instead he smiled, scanned the area for any security personal before leaning back against the big tree in front for their window drinking his beer.
“Hey Ryan, hurry up man, Joel will be here in a minute, and I don’t want to hear his mouth about why we’re not ready.” Brye called out as he slipped on his shoes.
“Okay…okay, I’m hurrying.” Ryan laughed; I’m just putting the finishing touches on my hair. Oh by the way I need to buy you some more styling gel, you’re almost out.”
“Hey it’s cool, don’t worry about it, we’ll get some more later… now hurry up.” Byre stood up giving himself a once over in the mirror. He combed his fingers through his long black hair allowing the natural curly locks to frame his face. His parents were in town for Joel’s first game of the season and they were taking them out to dinner. Brye mentioned he wanted to bring Ryan along; he wanted them to meet his new best friend.
“Well…how do I look?” Ryan asked pivoting from side to side, striking a pose. His blond hair, perfectly styled. He was wearing a pair of acid washed black jeans with a black and gray plaid short-sleeved shirt that he wore un-tucked.
“You look marvelous…” Brye said approvingly.
“What about Joel, you think he will like it?” Ryan asked chewing nervously on the inside of his cheek.
“I think Joel will love it. He likes dark colors, like grays…blues… black. That’s why I picked that out for you.”
“Oh…okay.” Ryan looked at himself in the mirror adjusting his shirt and picking lent off his jeans.
“You look fine; don’t worry so much, I know my brother.” Brye gave Ryan a reassuring pat on the back.
“Yeah, your brother is nice.” Ryan said dreamily. They heard a rapid knock at the door. “That’s him.” Ryan smiled.
“Then answer it, go…” He waved Ryan toward the door. “I’ve got to put a little gel right here, it keeps falling in my face.” He pointed to a lock of hair that wouldn’t stay put.
“Okay,” Ryan rubbed his sweaty palms down the side of his jeans, and took a deep breath before opening the door.
“Hey…” Joel waved as he walked in. “You guys ready?” He asked as he gave Ryan an approving nod.
“Hey Joel, he’ll be right out.” Brye was right, Joel was casually dressed in a pair faded jeans and a gray Ed Hardy graphic print long sleeve tee shirt that fit really well.
Joel sat down on Ryan’s bed and leaned forward resting elbows on his legs. Ryan smiled and sat at his desk turning his chair around to face Joel. There was a moment of awkward silence for about three beats until Joel cleared his throat.
“So Ryan, how are you?” Joel asked as he looked intently at Ryan causing him to feel self-conscious. It was as if Joel was searching his soul with his eyes, seeing Ryan’s every thought.
“I’m good, how about you…you ready for the big game?” Ryan asked casually.
Joel nodded, “Yeah, as ready as I’m gonna be. I spent the whole weekend thinking about you.” Joel wanted to say. “I spent the whole weekend going over the new plays, so yeah I think I’m good.”
“What did you do this weekend?” Joel asked.
“Brye and I went to the movies and saw Iron Man 2.”
“Oh…yeah, was it any good?”
“I liked it.” Ryan said with a shrug of the shoulder.
Joel was about to speak when his phone vibrated in his pocket indicating he had a text. He pulled out his cell phone and read the message then shoved it back in his pocket.
“Brye, get your ass in gear, they’re here.” He yelled, referring to their mom and dad. “You ready?” He asked Ryan as he stood up.
“Yup.” Ryan mimicked Joel’s actions and stood up as well. Just then Brye came out of the restroom singing the lyrics to ‘Right Said Fred, I’m Too Sexy.’
“Hey…is that my shirt?” Joel pointed to his younger brother who was wearing a turquoise Holster polo.
“Opps…” Brye laughed, “I…I’m…Uh…” He stammered and pointed toward the door, “Didn’t you say we needed to be going?” He asked making a bee line for the door.
Joel allowed Ryan to exit after Brye calling over his shoulder to his brother. “I want my shirt back."he laughed as he closed the door.
The meeting with the Masterson’s went smoothly. Ryan was in awe at how beautiful Brye and Joel’s mom, Janice, was. She stood about five-four, very petite. Her olive skin was flawless even without make up. Her eyes were a deep blue like her sons. Her hair, black and wavy, fell long, down past the middle of her back. She explained that she was going to cut it and donate it to the foundation that made wigs for cancer patients. Very light freckles, that were almost unnoticeable, dotted across the center of her face.
She was dressed very casually wearing a pair of faded jeans with a rip above the left knee with an emerald green V-neck fitting sweater.
Their dad, Mitchell Masterson was just as relaxed, nothing fancy about him. He was dressed just a casual as his personality, a nice pair of distress jeans and a vintage Fleetwood Mac tee shirt that fit him nicely. His mustache was neatly trimmed and his hair a salt and pepper combination, he had a few wrinkles around his eyes when he smiled, but still very handsome. Ryan thought they made a cute couple.
The ride over to the restaurant consisted of conversations about school and how Ryan and Brye were fairing as first year college students. When it came to Joel, he and his dad talked about sports… namely NCAA Division One College football. They talked stats, team players, schedules, and plays. Ryan was impressed at how much Janice knew about the game.
As the Masterson family and Ryan sat around the table, they examined their menus. When the family mentioned a lovely restaurant in downtown Chicago, Ryan didn’t know they were talking about an all vegan place called Eden. Not that he had a problem with it, but sitting there looking at the menu, Ryan’s appetite was dwindling.
The restaurant was decorated in nothing but recyclable items. The tables and chairs were all made of recycled materials and art made of many different items hung from the walls. The place had an airy yet classy feel to it.
“See anything you like, Ryan dear?” Janice asked kindly looking over her menu. Ryan looked up and smiled at her.
“Still looking,” He replied. Brye snickered and nudged Ryan’s shoulder with his elbow. Ryan looked at him subtly and saw him wink. Brye then leaned closer to him.
“You should try the tofurky,” He whispered teasingly and winked. “Ahh-mazing, huh?,” He chuckled quietly to himself.
Ryan rolled his eyes and continued to look at the menu that was also made of recycled material. He read over the menu items, reading the description of each. Black Bean Tofu Soft Tacos, Sloppy Janes, Tofu Scramble, Vegetarian Chili, Chana Masala, Nut Loaf, Spring Rolls, Asparagus Risotto…. Not a single meat item.
“Don’t you just love this place, honey?” Janice asked looking at her husband.
“Everything on this menu sounds delicious,” Mitchell said, licking his lips. “I don’t know what to pick.”
I pick BB King’s Chicken and Ribs down the block, Ryan thought.
“Oh, how about the Vegetable Paella?” Joel suggested looking at his father.
I’ll take a MEAT Paella, Ryan thought.
“No… I had that last time,” Mitch replied, he and Joel scanned the menu again. Ryan decided that he would just have the fettuccini Alfred made with numerous faux dairy products and call it a day. He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. Mitch looked at him and eyed him carefully, and as if he could read his mind, and said, “You know, Ryan, living with this woman,” He gestured to Janice. “I’ve learn to eat to live, not live to eat.” He laughed.
“What do you mean honey, you’re just as bad as I am.” Janice said in her own defense as she pulled her hair back behind her ear.
And I live for bacon, steak, ham, chicken, beef tips, pork ribs…
“That’s a good moral to live by,” Ryan nodded in agreement. Suddenly the server came to their table.
“Alright, so what can I get you all today?” She asked.
“Well, it’s the champ’s night, so we’ll let him order first,” Mitch stated proudly and gestured to Joel.
“Well, I’ll have the Black Bean burger with avocado,” Joel requested.
“Alright, and for you ma’am?” She turned to Janice.
“I would like the Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce,” She said. Brye then ordered the black bean tacos, Ryan of course ordered his Alfred, and Mitchell ordered the Sloppy Janes. Once the server left to place their orders, the conversation started.
“So, Ryan, a little birdie told me that you’re gay.” Janice stated, resting her elbows on the table and folding her hands, resting her chin in them.
Suddenly, water sprayed across the table from Brye’s direction.
“Maahhh…” He whined, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, causing Joel and Mitchell to chuckle.
“What?” Janice asked, innocently batting her eyelashes. Ryan threw Brye a death glare who in turn glared at the packets of sugar on the table. Then, Ryan smiled kindly at Janice.
“Yes, I am,” He confirmed.
“Well isn’t that wonderful,” Janice gushed and Mitch nodded in agreement. “Oh, I remember when my little Joel came out,” She reminisced.
“Maahhh…” Joel whined shaking his head.
“Don’t ‘Mah’ me,” Janice reprimanded and turned back to Ryan. “I wanted to have a Coming Out party for him, but Mitch thought it was a bit over the top.” She explained as she caressed her husband’s back
“Yeah, I thought a party would have been a little overwhelming.” Mitch said. Suddenly the server returned with their food and sat it in front of them with a smile.
“Enjoy your meal,” She said kindly and left. Everyone looked down at their plates eagerly… except Ryan. They started to dig in as Ryan sat there for a little bit, pushing the noodles around on his plate. Then, because he didn’t want to seem rude, he started to eat. A smile lit of his face as he chewed. It tasted amazing. He scooped up another fork full, shoveling it into his mouth.
“Good, huh?” Mitch smiled with a nod.
“Mm-Hm,” Ryan hummed, giving a thumbs up. Everyone ate and chatted after that. Janice kept bringing up childhood stories about Brye and Joel that had Ryan laughing so hard he cried. He loved how Joel was so different around his mom, Ryan saw a gentler side of him and it made him admire Joel that much more.
After everyone was finished eating, Mitch shifted gears and, brought up the big game.
“So, Joel, you gonna’ win tonight?”
“Hell yeah!” Joel cheered and then looked at his watch. “Speaking of which, if I’m late I’ll be benched, so I better go.” He said and stood up. “You all have your tickets, right?”
“Don’t worry, sweetie, I’ve got them in my purse,” Janice assured patting her ‘Green’ tote bag. “Is your friend Emmett out there?” She asked trying to look around him out the window.
“Yeah, I just got the text, he’s outside.”
“Come on, give mama some love,” She stood up, arms outstretched. Joel walked around to her and gave her a hug. “Good luck, baby.” She wished.
“Thanks, mom.” Then Joel turned to his father.
“Make us proud, son.” Mitch said giving Joel a high-five. Then, Joel turned to Brye and grinned slyly. Brye looked up from his plate, wide-eyed, a piece of lettuce hanging from his lip.
“No…” He whined. Joel nodded.
“Yes…” He mocked and then grabbed Brye in a headlock, giving him a noogie.
“Hey!” Brye complained when Joel let him go. He ran his hands through his hair, causing a hardy laugh to bubble forth from the both of them.
“Yup, now we’ll definitely win.” He said and turned to Ryan. “Hey, see ya, man.” He shook Ryan’s hand and they stared into each other’s eyes for a short moment, which didn’t go unnoticed by Janice. She nudged Mitch who gave an approving smile and nodded. When, they realized that they were still holding hands, Joel quickly let go. “Yeah, uh, see ya.” He said again and then headed out of the restaurant.
Janice followed Ryan’s gaze as he watched her son walk out of the restaurant, before turning his attention back to them. She and Ryan shared a knowing glace, and Janice smile giving him her approval. Ryan lowered his head with a hopeful sigh.
The lights were bright, and the stands were full of spectators and excited fans. This was Northwestern’s first home game and first game of the season.
The excitement and energy was off the charts. The cheerleaders were working the crowd with their chants, high kicks and flips, while the Wildcat mascot danced around on the field as the band played their victory songs, such as the theme for Rocky and the Norte Dame Victory March. The sweet smell of Carmel popcorn and buttery popcorn could be smelled coming from the concession stands. Brye, Ryan, Mitch and Janice found their seats in the stands and chatted as they waited for the game to Begin.
After the singing of the National Anthem, the game was set to start. Northwestern’s Horn and the drum section played a heart pounding selection as the Team members busted through the Wildcat’s banner. The crowds were on their feet stomping to the beat, cheering as Running Back number 21, Joel Masterson, Tackle… number 43, Melvin Tank, Kicker… number 11, Jaxson Phillips, and Wide Receiver… number 8, Emmett Bates along with the rest of the team made their way to the field, encouraging the fans to stand and cheer.
Whistles and claps filled the stadium with the first kick off, The Northern Illinois Huskies verses The Northwestern Wildcats. The game was close the first three quarters causing a major uproar within the stadium. Mitch yelled at the referees, the coaches; calling bad calls, and he also yelled at the fans from the other team, calling them sore losers.
With fifty-seven seconds left in the fourthquarter Bates made a compete pass to Masterson who rushed to the right of the Huskies right guard for fifty-nine yards for a TOUCHDOWN…. Phillips kicked an extra point…GOOD bringing the final score 43 to 42 the Wildcats win!!!!!
The crowds went wild, Mitch grabbed Janice around the waist jumping up and down shouting cheers along with Brye and Ryan who gave each other double high –fives, dancing on the steps of the bleachers.
The victory party was held a Manison on campus that one of the fraternities rented out. Ryan and Brye showed up a little later due to hanging out with Brye’s parents after the game. When they arrived the party was in full effect. Students were littered about in the front lawn and porch. As they walked up they could hear the thunderous bass of Ludicris’s ‘My Chicks Bad,’ vibrating through the window pane.
Once inside the house, crowded with students, some dancing while others stood against the wall watching and conversing with one another, drinking beer and mixed drinks, Brye and Ryan made their way over to the serving bar in the dining area to get themselves a drink. The topic for the evening was Running Back Joel Masterson who won the winning touchdown bringing the Wildcats to their 1st Victory.
“Hey, aren’t you Masterson’s little brother?” One of the guys standing by the cooler asked before taking a long swig of his corona.
“Yepp…”Brye answered proudly with a huge grin on his face and his chest puffed up.
“You got some big shoes to fill little man.” The guy laughed taking another sip before turning and walking away. Ryan and Brye grinned at each other before Ryan lifted the lid on the cooler. Brye reached in and pulled out two beers, handing one to Ryan.
“Man this is awesome….” Ryan said in awe as he looked around the room. This is my first frat party.” He exclaimed uncapping his beer.
Brye took a long quenching drink and nodded, “Yeah, me too…this is great!” He shoved his hands in the pocket of his jeans and stood next to Ryan, both of them checking out the place.
“What about her?” Ryan asked referring to a classmate standing with a group of girls, who looked like they were waiting for someone to ask them to dance.
“Which one?” Brye looked to the group of girls to his left.
“The one with the long red hair, looking this way.”
“Fuck, you’re kidding right?”
“Why, what’s wrong with her? She’s in my literature class, she’s cute…smart and her name is not Candy.” Ryan teased.
“I don’t know man, she’s just not my type.” Brye sighed dismissingly. Ryan had a confused expression on his face..
“Fine, I give up; let’s go find something to eat….something meaty.” Ryan laughed. They were heading toward the kitchen when there was a commotion at the front door. Someone shouted THEY’RE HERE…THEY’RE HERE!!!! Ryan and Brye stood back watching the crowd part like the ‘ Red Sea ’ allowing Tank, Jaxson, Emmett, and Joel to walk through. All hands were high in the air giving them the high-fives.
“The Champs are in…the party can now begin.” Tank stood in the middle of the dance floor and started to dance to Lloyd’s ‘Set me Free.’ Repeating the lyrics, “I’m a Beast, I’m a dog take me off the leash so I can set it off.” Joel, Emmett and Jaxson were already dancing with some girls that ran up too them.
“Oh My God!…oh my god, Joel you were awesome.” The young girl squealed excitingly.
“Thanks sweetheart.” Joel said as they danced, kissing her sweetly on the cheek. Emmett who was dancing next to them leaned over giving Joel a hard high-five.
“Hell Yeah…” Emmett yelled over the music bobbing his head to the beat.
“HEY GUYS OVER HERE!” A voice called out from the serving bar where Brye and Ryan were standing.
“Thanks for the dance.” Joel said into her ear, then nodded to the bar.”
“Oh My god…any time Joel.” The girl said sounding all giddy. The guys made their way over. Joel spotted Ryan immediately. They shared a glanceand smiled.
“What’s up Losers?” Jaxson greeted Brye and Ryan in his traditional fashion.
“Fuck off Jaxson.” Brye retorted.
“So… how was Candy?” Jaxson chuckled in to his fist.
“Yeah…about that punk.” Brye started to speak.
“Candy?” Tank asked in shock, “You hooked him up with Candy?” Tank let out a hardy laugh. “Damn man.” He continued to laugh.
“Wait…You hooked my brother up with a stripper?” Joel asked incredulity, “Man I should kick your ass for that one.” Joel eyed Jaxson with one eyebrow raised.
“Hey…I was only trying to help.” Jaxson fringed innocence holding his hands up in defense.
“Never and I mean never let this fool find you a date.” Joel told his younger brother. Ryan laughed and shook his head.
“You guys were great today.” Ryan commended, though he really meant Joel.
“Thanks.” They said in unison.
Eric, Tank’s roommate was pouring Patron shots. He handed one to each of the guys. “Drink up fellas." While another guy walked up pouring salt on the back of their hands.
“Where’s the lime?” Emmett asked running his hand through his fire red hair.
“Right here.” Eric passed around a bowl with sliced limes in it. Ryan watched as Joel licked his tongue over the back of his hand, then took the shot before squeezing the lime into his mouth.
“Yeah….that’s what I’m talking about…smooth.” Joel licked the salt from the side of his mouth. Joel caught Ryan starring at him and gave a slight wink causing Ryan to blush.
“Funk…one more.” Tank laughed.
“I want one.” Brye said.
“You sure you can handle this?” Eric asked, “This is for the big boys.” He joked.
“Yeah…give him one, Ryan too.” Jaxson laughed.
“No…no way.” Ryan declined waving his hands over his chest.
Joel laughed, “Awww come on I’ll do it with you.” He offered.
“Yeah, it’s party.” Brye insisted.
“Yeah…” everyone agreed.
“Come on…” Joel pleaded.
Ryan eyed Joel who was nodding yes. “Okay..okay.” Ryan conceded, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling.
“Hell Yes…” Brye shouted.
Eric passed the salt around and everyone took his turn using it. Next, he filled their shot glassed with tequila and handed Brye and Ryan a fresh glass along with a lime.
“Here’s to the Wildcats and a wonderful victory.” Eric said licking the salt off the back his hand. Ryan was about to lick his own hand when Joel reached for it and seductively placed it to his mouth; he slowly licked the salt off sucking between his thumb and forefinger.
“Oh my god, he’s licking hand.” Ryan thought wowed at Joel’s action, as he watched his warm tongue touch is skin sending a tingling feeling straight to his groin.
Joel slowly placed his hand to Ryan’s lips for him to do the same. Ryan hesitantly lowered his head, never taking his eyes off Joel’s, placing his mouth to Joel’s hand. Joel’s breath hitched and he bit his lower lip enjoying the feel of Ryan’s soft mouth against his flesh. All eyes were on them.
“Well…” Jaxson’s voice broke them from their trance like state. “You guys gonna drink or are you going to lick each others hand all night.” He teased.
Everyone including Brye and already taken their shots. Joel held his glass up as if he was toasting with Ryan and threw his back. Ryan slowing brought his too his mouth and smelled it before sipping it.
“You don’t sip it Ryan.” Emmett laughed uncapping a bottle of Bud light. “You swallow it down fast.” He laughed taking a sip of his beer.
Joel gave Ryan a sexy wink and a slow nod motioning him to drink. “Here goes…” Ryan said as he gulped it down. He drew his brows together and puckered his lips feeling a slight burn in his throat as the liquid went down. Joel tilted his head back, motioning for him to open his mouth. He opened wide allowing Joel to squeeze the lime juice inside.
Ryan swallowed hard and started coughing uncontrollably. Brye quickly handed him a beer. “Hey drink this.” He said watching Ryan’s reddened checks.
“You alright Ryan.” Joel asked with concern.
“Yeah…yeah… I’m good.” Ryan managed to speak feeling a little dizzy.
The guys were all standing around talking when the hypnotizing sounds of violins and bass of The Eurythmics, ‘Sweet Dreams,’ pumped through the speakers followed by the seductive and captivating voice of Annie Lennox pulled everyone on to the dance floor.
“Ahhh…shit,” Joel closed his eyes feeling the music and the smoothness of the Patron. He licked the corner of his mouth tasting the residue of salt and lime.
“Dance with me.” Joel asked with pleading eyes grabbing Ryan’s hand, “Come on.” He didn’t wait for an answer as he pulled him on the dance floor.
“Um…Joel…I can’t dance.” He yelled over the music.
“Just follow me.” Joel called back over his shoulder. Someone handed him a beer as he made his way through the crowd. Ryan gave Brye a pleading look for help but, he was fairing no better as he was being pulled onto the dance floor as well, by some random chick.
Once on the floor Joel pulled Ryan in close with one hand while he held his beer in the other. The sound of the music was intoxicating and Ryan felt himself starting to relax, enjoying the feel of Joel’s strong body next to his. They swayed back and forth to the beat, stepping closer together until theirhips were touching, grinding each other.
Feeling the beat over take his body Ryan threw his head back exposing the side of his neck to Joel, who licked his lips as they continued their slow grind. The room was warm... the music; loud. Ryan brought his head back straight locking eyes with Joel’s seductive ones and without thinking tilted his head back again and closed his eyes. He knew Joel picked up on his unspoken signal when he felt his lips and tongue against his neck, kissing him.
Ryan felt his body getting weaker and warmer as Joel’s mouth caressed his neck and shoulder right there on the dance floor. Ryan lowered his head coming mouth to mouth with Joel. What started out as just a meeting of the lips turned into something more…something hot it was like no one else existed. Joel’s tongue delved deeper into Ryan’s mouth as he pulled him tighter into his embrace, kissing him madly…passionately.
Ryan could not believe this was happening, his mind told him to stop, but his body disobeyed, this felt too good.
“I want you Ryan.” Joel whispered breathlessly into Ryan’s ear nodding toward the stairs, taking Ryan’s hand he called over his shoulder, “We’ll be back…”
Ryan followed behind Joel holding his hand tightly as he moved through the crowd, no one seemed to notice them or they just didn’t care or maybe this was the norm. As they passed through the tightly packed room, Joel received a few ‘congratulations,’ along with some pats on the back. He nodded gracefully and continued their journey guiding Ryan to the top of the stairs, slowly as if in slow motion down to the end of the hall.
Ryan wondered if Joel had been here in this room before with other guys. So many things were going through Ryan’s mind it was overwhelming. He watched as Joel slowly opened the door and with a slight nod and a gestured of the hand motioned for him to enter first.
“After you.” He smiled as ran his hand down to the small of Ryan’s back.
Ryan walked in feeling a little hesitant as he looked around the room absorbing it all in. He inhaled deeply feeling like ‘this is it’… this was the room he would lose his virginity in. Would he look different somehow…feel different he wondered? He turned his head coming face to face with Joel, whose eyes appeared darker than usual. He ran his tongue over his lips to moisten them, as he ran his fingers through his hair feeling nervous and scared.
The room was dark and amazingly warm for this time of year. Ryan felt as if he could barely breathe, yet Joel seemed so relaxed. He felt Joel lean into him, pressing his chest against his back as he slowly wrapped his arms around Ryan’s waist pulling him into his embrace.
The warmth of Joel’s breath as his lips tenderly touched the side of his neck caused Ryan to tremble. The way Joel was touching him, the way he held him steady with one hand as he ran the other between his legs pressing the palm of his hand firmly again Ryan’s growing erection, the warmth of his hand could be felt through his jeans. The touch embarrassed Ryan for some reason, though he didn’t understand why, his body was just responding to the stimulation of Joel’s hand and it felt good, he had never been touched this way before….Never been wanted the way Joel whispered in his ear, telling him how bad he wanted him.
Joel slowly turned Ryan around to face him gently lifting his chin, bringing them face to face. He licked the corner of his mouth seductively before pressing his lips on Ryan’s. His kiss; demanding… claiming Ryan’s mouth and tongue as if he owned them, kissing him fervently, urgently. Joel’s mouth was sweet, laced with a hint of tequila and cinnamon.
Everything was happening so fast. The moans that filled the air were Ryan’s own as he kissed him back, leaning into Joel savoring the feel of their bodies grinding together. Ryan wrapped his arms tightly around him, feeling suspended in time.
They continued to kiss inexorability as Joel walked Ryan backwards toward the bed. Joel broke the kiss trying to catch his breath, resting his forehead against Ryan’s, a mixture of nerves, excitement and want was radiating between them.
Joel looked into Ryan’s brown eye’s seeing a range of emotion in them, but the one that was the most evident had to be trust, because as scared as Ryan was he trusted Joel for some unexplainable reason.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Joel whispered into Ryan’s ear as he kissed it softly.
“Um…hum” Ryan nodded trying to catch his breath, “I’m just scared.” He replied faintly, struggling to speak.
“Okay…” Joel spoke quietly as he combed his fingers through Ryan’s hair. “You’re so beautiful you know that?” He smiled as he placed the palm of his hand gently to Ryan’s face. Ryan swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat and closed his eyes falling into Joel’s soothing touch.
Joel lowered him down onto the bed slowly, carefully and stood before him as his pulled his shirt over his head, revealing his strong muscular chest. Ryan’s breathing became shallow as he watched Joel run his fingers through his soft black curls, his question echoing in his mind... ‘Was he ready?’
Joel knelt down in front of Ryan and ran his hands under the hem of his shirt gathering the fabric between his fingers; his hand lightly touched Ryan’s skin as he pulled it over his head, causing the muscles in Ryan’s stomach to quiver leaving him feeling venerable.
Ryan sat on the edge of the bed and anxiously watched Joel unzip his jeans, pulling them down slowly past his hips tugging on one side then the other, revealing a pair of hunter green boxer briefs that hugged his thighs perfectly.
“You need help?” Joel asked teasingly noticing that Ryan was still fully dressed.
“Oh…” Ryan smiled shyly looking down at his jeans then back to Joel, “Um… no I got it.” He answered as he fumbled with his zipper. Joel stood back and waited. He eyed Ryan carefully making him feel even more uneasy, as though he was under a spotlight. He struggled with his zipper while still sitting on the bed.
“You know it works better if you lean back or stand up.” Joel nodded with one eyebrow raised.
“Yeah…” Ryan laughed softly as he stood up. Now all eyes really were on him, Joel’s alluring blue ones and hecouldn't stall on longer. He quickly unzipped his jeans and noticed the smile of approval on Joel’s face as he approached him closing the space between. Ryan pushed his jeans past his hips allowing them to fall to the ground.
With a sexy grin, Joel slid his finger under the waistband of Ryan’s underwear playing teasingly with the elastic before he helped Ryan pull them down exposing his fully erected member. Ryan’s first impulse was to cover himself with his hands…to hide it from Joel’s view, which must have been obvious to him, because he quickly grabbed Ryan’s hand.
“No…” Joel shook his head. Their eyes locked, neither one breaking the stare, unaware they were coming closer together until their lips touched, gentle at first. The initial contact sent waves of warmth throughout Ryan’s body arousing him even more. His tongue parted Joel’s lips forcing its way inside without resistance, filling the inside of his mouth, tasting the warm sweetness inside. Their eyes closed…their hands roaming…caressing… becoming familiar with each other’s body. The room was indeed spinning out of control. Ryan felt light headed…dizzy as Joel lowered him back onto the bed.
Ryan scooted further on the bed resting his head on the pillows behind him as he watched Joel pulled down his underwear and stepped out of them. Ryan’s mouth was agape and his breath hitched as he noticed the size of Joel’s cock, the thickness of it, as he hung suspended in the air. His body was perfect even with the surgical scar on the right side of his abdomen.
Joel crawled up toward Ryan, hovering over his body. He tenderly kissed his inner thigh and felt it tremble under his tongue. He placed his both hands on Ryan’s thighs to steady him…caressing them in an effort to calm him.
“Ryan, what’s wrong?” Concern evident in the tone he used.
Ryan held his breath for a second closing his eyes tightly then whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” Joel asked with confusion.
Ryan bit his bottom lip and covered his face with his hands as if he was trying to hide his shame. “I’m sorry Joel, I’ve never done this before, and I don’t know what to do.” He confessed speaking between his fingers
“Done what...this?” Joel asked referring to their current situation as if he already knew the answer.
Ryan pressed his lips tightly together and nodded a quick confirming yes. Joel sighed heavily and mouthed the words ‘shit'as he drug his hand down his face. He sighed and gently placed hands on Ryan’s and removed them.
“Ryan…” He whispered looking kindly into his eyes, “You’ve never had sex before?”
“No…” Ryan answered defensively, “I mean I’m only eighteen, it’s not like…”
“I know…I know.” Joel tried to reassure him. Ryan closed his eyes again trying to hide behind the darkness. “Look at me Ryan…please.” Joel tilted his head slighting hoping the see those beautiful browns he was becoming so fond of. “I didn’t mean to sound insulting, I promise…Hell you’re right you are only eighteen…I get it. I just didn’t think.”
Ryan’s eye fluttered open when he felt Joel get off the bed. He handed Ryan his clothes before putting his underwear back on. Ryan didn’t know what to feel or what to think as he sat up pulling his shirt over his head, forcing his arms through the sleeves. He watched Joel pull up his jeans and zip them.
“Are…are you mad?” Ryan asked feeling guilt ridden, “I mean we can still do, I want to.” He shrugged his shoulder, shoving his hand in the pocket of his jeans.
“Come here…” Joel held out his hand. Ryan walked over careful with his steps and placed his hand into Joel’s. He stood in front of him afraid to look in his eyes so he looked at the floor instead. Placing his arm around Ryan’s waist, he pulled him closer and tenderly lifted his face to meet his.
“I’m sorry Ryan…things just got out of hand. The drinking…the music, I wasn’t thinking.” He bit his lower lip as he tried to make eye contact with Ryan.
“You don’t want…”
“Oh…I want.” Joel nodded quickly. “Believe me I want, hell I want so bad it hurts…Literally.” He said jokingly looking down at the budge in his jeans, trying to lighten the mood, which worked because Ryan returned his comment with a smile.
Joel inhaled deeply, “But your first time should not be like this, at some frat party with a bunch of guys getting drunk off their ass, waiting in line…taking a number to get into this room to get laid. Hell everyone knows why we come up here, your first time should be special.” He added as he ran the pad of his thumb down Ryan’s cheek.
“Shhhh…” Joel placed his finger to Ryan’s lips. “I would love to be your first…honored actually, but only when you’re ready…clear head and absolutely sure.”
“Really?” Ryan asked with surprised.
“Really…I’ll wait for you Ryan; this…this would have been a mistake.”
“What does that mean…you’ll wait for me?” Ryan questioned pressing his lips together.
“I think you know what that means.”
“Joel you don’t have too…” Ryan defended.
“I know, but I want too. I like you Ryan, and I want to get to know you…hang out, actually take you out on a date, burgers and a movie or something you know?”
“A movie…you mean like a date…date?”
“No like a date…date.” Joel laughed, “Of course a date…unless you don’t want too.” Joel pulled back with a questioning gaze.
“Wow…” Ryan sighed in a daze like state.
“Okaayyy…” Joel looked confused. “Is that a yes…maybe?”
Ryan nodded quickly…”Yes…yes, are you kidding me, I’ve had this “mad” crush on you since you knocked me over on the first day of school.” He laughed grinning from ear to ear.
“Good…, you’re adorable you know that? Come on let’s get out of here…” Joel nodded toward the door. “I’m sure there’s a long line waiting to get in, hell I’m surprised they didn’t start knocking.” Joel joked; Ryan just shook his head feeling as if he was walking on air…
Joel was right about one thing, he did want his first time to be special and being with Joel would have made it special… but he was glad they decided to wait. Ryan glanced over at Joel admiringly as they walked down the stairs hand in hand, thinking, Brye was right, Joel would be perfect.
The party was still going strong, the living room was still tightly packed with dancers, dancing to the Black Eyed Peas, ‘Imma Be’ just as Joel’s foot hit the bottom stair, Jace appeared out of nowhere pulling Joel’s hand out of Ryan’s dragging him to the living room.
“Dance with me!” He yells over the music. Joel felt Ryan slip from his grasp and before he could do anything there was a throng of people between them, Ryan was gone from sight. Joel sighed already in the middle of the dance floor not interested in dancing as he scooped out the area looking for Ryan. Jace noticed Joel’s distraction and danced seductively around him.
“So, how was he?” Jace asked suggestively while moving with the beat. Joel sighed disgustedly shaking his head without a response.
“Awww…come on Joel, was he good to you?” The tone in Jace’s voice was laced with sarcasm and jealousy.
“Cool it.” Joel said in a harsh tone.
“What…you don’t want to share, you want to keep him for yourself…hell.” Jace smiled a devilish grin, “I want to fuck him.” He chucked with in a drunken stupor.
“Fuck you Jace, I’m out.” Joel threw his hands in the air dismissively and turned to leave, leaving Jace standing in the middle of the dance floor.
“Soooo…” Brye inquired bouncing his brows suggestively.
“Soooo….what?” Ryan repeated nonchalantly as he took a sip of his beer looking at Brye from the corner of his eyes. Ryan and Brye were standing outside on the back porch with a few other students talking, smoking, and just getting some air.
“Did you do it…you know” Brye bobbed is head, gesturing with his hands.
A huge smile appeared on Ryan’s face as he leaned over and whispered, “He was amazing…amazing.”
Brye’s eyes got wide as saucers and his mouth fell open with shock, “Wow, that good?” he asked incredulity. “Oh my god….” He cupped his hand over his mouth.
“Yes…and no.” Ryan teased.
“Yes and no…what the fuck does that mean?”
“Yes…Joel is amazing.” Ryan replied in an infatuated tone, ‘And no we didn’t do anything…we decided to wait.” Ryan stated as fact.
“What…you decided to wait?” Brye asked rhetorically, shaking his head in disbelief. “Are you fuckin kidding me? He asked this time actually wanting an answer.
“Yep…he’s gonna take me to a movie.”
“The movies…like a date, kind of movie?”
“Yep…” Ryan smiled a toothy grin.
“Cool, well my good man, you can wait if you want…but me, I have women to conquer, hell I’m getting laid.” He slapped Ryan twice on the back. “I hope.” He winked with a light chuckle. “Hey I’m gonna get another beer…want one?”
“Nah…I’m good.” Ryan declined, holding up his bottle.
“Okay…I’ll be right back…unless some beautiful senior decides she can’t resist me and wants to jump my bones.” Brye laughed as he walked inside. When he opened the door ‘How Low Can You Go.’ By Ludacris, could be heard blaring through the speakers.
Ryan just smiled, listening to the idle chatter and breathe a sigh of relief, as he looked out into the starry night sky. He heard the door opened and smiled when he saw Joel step out.
“Hey…there you are,” Joel smiled. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Really…” Ryan asked skeptically drawing his brows together.
“Is that like your favorite word or something?” Joel chuckled.
“What?” Ryan looked confused.
“Never mind…I was wondering if you wanted to get out of here.”
“Get out of here, as in leave with you?” Ryan inquired with a curious smile.
“Okay…why do you keep answering my question with a question?” Joel asked looking a bit bewildered.
“Oh…I’m sorry, sure.” Ryan smiled shyly, ‘Where do you want to go?”
“Anywhere…I don’t care.” Joel shrugged his shoulder, “I just need to get out of here. Clear my head, maybe grab a burger or something, then I’ll walk you back to your dorm.”
“Okay…”Ryan nodded excitedly. “It’s a little chilly out.” Ryan noticed as he rubbed his hands briskly over his arms and shoulders in an attempt to generate some body heat.
“Here…”Joel removed his purple and white varsity athlete’s jacket that all the team members wore, and handed it to Ryan. “Put this on.”
“Thank you.” Ryan smiled as Joel helped him slip his arms into the sleeves of the jacket.
“Let’s go.” Joel grabbed Ryan’s hand and heading out the back gate just as Brye was walking out of the house.
He smiled, “That’s it Ryan, go for it.” He laughed taking a sip of beer, then called out, “You boys don’t behave…okay.”
“Hey, where are they going?” A voice asked over Byre’s shoulder.
Brye turned coming face to face with Jace. “Um…I don’t know.” Brye answered with a smirk, shrugged one shoulder, and walked away.
“I don’t think so Joel…I don’t think so.” Jace said with malice in his voice as he watched Ryan and Joel walk out of his view.
It had been two weeks since the first game…the first party and the first kiss. Since that Hopeful night, things were very different for Ryan and Brye for that matter. They were the most popular freshmen on campus; Brye, for the obvious reason, he was the younger brother of number 21… Joel Masterson, the most valuable player for the Wildcats.
For Ryan, it was as if he joined the, “Joel Lovers” fan club. Rumor had it that he and Joel did more than kiss when they went upstairs that night and because of that the “Joel Lovers,” admired him. They wanted to be his friend and followed him around campus asking him all kinds of questions. Even though Ryan tried to tell them it wasn’t true, they still acted as if he walked on water. Though the rumor was just that… arumor, Ryan was still able to get under Joel’s skin and everyone knew that…including Jace.
Things seemed to be going smoothly as far as classes were concerned, but because Ryan was very busy trying to keep up with his assignments, swim practice and swim competitions, it left no room for a social life. His roommate, Brye, was feeling the pressure as well. He had joined the Crew team, he was involved in pre season training, and they met every day to prepare for the first competition in October.
Ryan and Joel’s friendship was developing at a nice slow pace. Joel was busy with his classes, football games, and practices; they were still doing two-a-days. Since the “kiss,” aside from texting, they managed to see each other only twice, once at the cantina for breakfast and once after Ryan’s swim practice. That day Joel’s schedule allowed him time to wait for Ryan and walk him back to his dorm. They decided since Joel didn’t have a game on Friday night they would go to the movies together, have their first official “real” date.
“I’m totally done.” Kennedy sighed with exhaustion, slamming her book closed. Kennedy was Ryan’s friend and classmate; they had Greek Mythology together. Kenni was a free spirit. She lived life by her own rules, and that’s what Ryan liked about her. She didn’t label herself as “gay, lesbian or bi,” she enjoyed females as much as males; it just depended on the mood, as with her appearance. This week her hair was a royal blue, she was into piercings and tattoos. She and Ryan became instant friends the moment they met.
“Yeah, me too.” Ryan agreed through a deep stretch, “I can’t read another word, there‘re all starting to run together.” He sighed rubbing his tired eyes.
“Yeah what’s up with that? Professor Dodd thinks he’s the only class we have?” Kennedy protested, “Then the fucker gives us a damn quiz today.” She paused. “By the way how do you think you did?”
“Good... I think,” Ryan smiled gathering his books together.
“Well, I know I didn’t.” Kenni confessed disappointedly.
“More studying and less partying…you think?” Ryan laughed jokingly.
“I know, but not everyone is dating the “out and proud” Joel Masterson,” She laughed making air quotes. “I’m still on the market.” She retorted teasingly.
“We’re not dating.” Ryan stated as fact, “We’re just friends.”
“Dude, I love him. Out, proud and on the football team, I’d like to pat that ass after a touchdown.” She giggled.
Ryan sighed rolling his eyes toward the ceiling, “It’s not like that…he’s not like that.” Ryan replied defensively. Kennedy smiled at Ryan's ignorant devotion to defend Joel's honor.
“He is like that, Ryan, they all are.” She stated nonchalantly.
“What do you mean?” Ryan questioned as he closed his book.
“They’re football players, jocks...” She shrugged her shoulders as if it was obvious.
She leaned over and spoke quietly as if she was about to reveal some big secret.
“They’re restricted before each game to not have sex, it tires them out…weakens them, if you know what I mean.” She winked, causing Ryan to blush as he listened intently.
“Yeah, so after the game, it’s on and poppin'. The hot one with the red hair and those dreamy green eyes,” she sighed patting her hand over her heart. “He is the biggest whore of them all.”
“Emmett?” Ryan questioned disbelievingly.
“Yeah Emmett.” Kennedy confirmed, “Then there’s Tank, the big dude…all of them, they find some girl to hook up with after every game…Joel too.” She added. “Well… he finds some dude.” She laughed. “Hell, you’re the shit, Ryan. From what I’m told he doesn’t do freshmen.” She gestured with a shrug of the shoulder then added.
“I know Joel’s not interested in women, but what about Brye, he’s cute, why don’t you hook a girl up.” She nudged Ryan’s shoulder with her own.
“Brye is not interested in a relationship.” Ryan replied, which was not a total lie. What Ryan didn’t tell Kennedy was Brye thought she was a freak and to quote him, “He wouldn't touch her with someone else’s dick.”
“Neither am I.” She laughed. “Anyway, Ryan, I need to get going, thanks for studying with me.” Kennedy stood up and gathered her books together. “Him…" she nodded to the handsome guy walking their way. “Now, I would totally do him.” She leaned over and whispered in Ryan’s ear. “But I hear he’s exclusively Joel’s, their open relationship is one sided, if you catch my drift.”
Ryan peeked around her to see Jace walking their way. He sighed hoping he would just keep walking, with no such luck.
“Ryan…right?” Jace stopped at the table and pointed to the blond.
“Um…yeah.” Ryan answered with a confused gaze. Kennedy looked from Jace to Ryan then back to Jace, raising her eyes suggestively as she stood behind him.
“Well, Ryan,” she cleared her throat. “I’m gonna get going…see you later?” She asked.
“Yeah…sure.” Ryan replied slowly, his eyes still on Jace. Kennedy waved 'bye' and headed out of the student lounge. Jace smiled as he watched her leave, before turning his attention back to Ryan.
“So…” He sat down in the seat vacated by Kennedy. “How’s it going?” He asked sounding sincere.
“Good.” Ryan answered hesitantly.
“Good…” Jace nodded toward the book Ryan’s hand was resting on. “Greek Mythology…huh?” Jace slid the book over to him and started flipping through the pagers absent mindedly, causing Ryan to wonder what he really wanted.
“Yeah,” Ryan replied eyeing suspiciously.
“Eros, the god of love, lust... and sex.” Jace put emphasis on the word sex. He closed the book and slid it back over to Ryan. “You know, Ryan, I love Greek Mythology. I aced the class; if you need any help just let me know.” He smiled pressing his lips together.
“So did you have fun at the party?” Jace inquired as he leaned back in his chair crossing one leg over the other.
Ryan nodded. “Yeah, it was cool.”
“So, Joel and you hit it off huh?” Jace asked rhetorically. Ryan opened his mouth to speak, but Jace stopped him. “Of course you did.” Jace answered his own question with a sheepish grin.
“Joel is nice, I like him.” Ryan said innocently.
“Nice…”Jace gave a dark laugh. “Joel and nice… they don’t go together. Naughty…that’s more like my Joel.”
“My Joel…" Ryan thought drawing his brows together. “Your Joel?” Ryan questioned.
“Well…not 'my' Joel, per say.” Jace used air quotes. “But you know what I mean.” He smiled with a click of the tongue.
“No…actually I don’t.” Ryan leaned back crossing his arms over his chest defensively.
Jace laughed mockingly. “Chill, Ryan, you seem like a nice kid, and I just don’t want you to think what happened between you two meant anything to him.”
Ryan was taken aback by the statement and questioned Jace. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m just saying Joel and I have a history together. He’s notorious for playing around, but he always comes back home, I don’t want you to get caught up in that one night with him that’s all.”
“Get caught up….?” Ryan questioned. “Why would you think that?”
“Well, I know Joel and I know how charming he can be. When he’s with you he has a way of making you feel…” Jace paused, “Special, as if you’re the only one when in reality you’re the only one at the time.”
“I didn’t get that from Joel.” Ryan stated, then asked, “Why would he play around, if you guys are in a relationship…more importantly why do you take him back?” Ryan challenged.
“Why this little mother fucker… is challenging me.” Jace thought. He repositioned himself in his seat before speaking.
“Because I know him…I understand him. First of all, Joel doesn’t do 'relationships,' he just can’t commit. Don’t get it twisted, Ryan, he’ll never be all yours, he thinks he’s too young to settle for one guy.” Jace stated with malice in his voice. Jace was thinking Ryan would be as easy as the others and back down and when he didn’t this aggravated him greatly.
“Well, thanks for the heads up Jace.” Ryan said as he picked up his books. “I’ll see you around.” He gave a fake smile leaving Jace sitting at the table speechless. Ryan walked away feeling un-nerved, but he put up a good front, hoping Jace couldn’t see that he was getting to him. The Joel he spent time with was not the Joel Jace and Kennedy made him out to be… cold, callus and only after one thing…a good time. Ryan sighed heavily as he made his way back to his dorm.
This was it. The last time Brye would ever trust Jaxson to find a girl for him. There have been a few mishaps already. There was the one who, after one date confessed her undying love and wanted to have his babies. Then, there was the date that landed Byre in jail; he could not forget the shopping date from hell with the Kleptomaniac. All the charges against him were dropped, of course, but yeah…Jaxson left out that important piece of information about her.
And foolish Brye knew it was time to stop being foolish. So, as he stepped into the coffee shop, expressionless, bleak and resentful, he went straight to the register and ordered a coffee; black. As he waited for his drink, he leaned back against the counter and scanned the area. The shop wasn’t as full as it usually was, and for that, he was glad.
“Sir, your coffee,” A woman said from behind the counter. Brye instantly turned around to see his coffee being shoved in his face and grabbed it.
“Thank you,” He said as he looked down at his coffee.
“No problem,” the woman said. Her voice was light and airy, like wind chimes. Brye couldn’t help but look up and his eyes connected with beautiful, emerald ones. He stepped back a little as his breath hitched. She was beautiful. Her skin was a light-medium color; you could tell she was biracial. Her hair fell in long ringlets down her back and she had full lips and a pearly white smile.
“T-thank you,” Brye stuttered and the woman giggled.
“You already said that, but you’re welcome.” She laughed lightly. “Is there anything else I can get you?” She offered. Brye shook his head.
“Actually, I’m meeting someone,” he said. The woman raised an eyebrow in curiosity.
“Really?” She asked. “What’s your name?”
“Brye,” He answered. “What about you?”
“Olivia,” She stuck her hand out. “Nice to meet you, Brye, Jaxson told me a lot of things about you. Especially how funny you are.” Olivia giggled. Realization struck Brye as he understood that this was the date he was supposed to meet.
“Olivia?” He asked, still shocked. She giggled and nodded her head quickly.
“Wow, you are funny,” Olivia commented.
“You’re beautiful,” Brye mumbled.
“What?” Olivia asked in confusion. Brye’s eyes widened and he shook his head to clear his thoughts.
“I said that it’s wonderful that you think that,” He covered. They then both stood there in silence, neither knowing what to say. Brye was still waiting for something bad to happen. There was just no way that this woman that worked at the coffee shop could be so perfect.
“Well, my shift ends in a few minutes, so… maybe we could sit down and talk?” Olivia offered.
“Yeah, that would be cool,” Brye said smoothly and smiled. “I’ll just, uh, take my coffee and find a table.” He said and left. He sat down at a two-seater, square table and took a quiet sip of his coffee. The few minutes passed quickly, and Olivia swiftly slung off her apron and sat down at the table with Brye.
“So, Brye, come here often?” She asked teasingly.
“That is the worst pick-up line ever,” Brye laughed. Olivia blushed and shrugged.
“Hey it broke the ice…”
“That it did,” Brye chuckled. “But, it should have been me asking that.”
“Maybe….” Olivia contemplated. “But, I’m glad you didn’t. You don’t know how many times guys have used those lines on me.” She grimaced.
“Note to self: never use pick-up lines.” Brye said jokingly. They were silent for a while before finally they both burst into a fit of laughter that had the few customers in the shop looking at them in annoyance and admiration.
“So, what do you like to do in your free time?” Olivia asked once she calmed down.
“Well, considering my classes, I don’t have very much free time on my hands. When I do, though, I like to hang with my friends and maybe just chill on my own. It depends on what I’m feeling that day.” Brye answered.
“I totally understand,” Olivia said with a bright smile. “When I still lived at home, my parents used to call me a homebody. I rarely went out and I was okay with that. I just liked to chill at home and read a good book or listen to some good music.” She said. “Oh! And when I received an iPod for Christmas, I was constantly listening to it. It was like an appendage.”
“Really? What kind of music do you like?” Brye asked with interest.
“Well, I listen to a lot of things from different genres. I like modern and sometimes I listen to 80s and 90s music. Anything with a good beat is nice.” Olivia answered.
“Wow, same here!” Brye said. “Do you like movies?” He asked.
“I love movies!” Olivia exclaimed. “Unfortunately, the last movie I saw in theaters was Transformers.”
“That was a year ago.” Brye pointed out.
“Exactly. Shows you how much I get out.” Olivia said.
“Well, my friends and I are planning on going to the movies to night to see Robin Hood. And I know this is last minute, but would you like to go?” Brye asked.
“Sure, I’d love too!” Olivia smiled. “I love Russell Crowe.”
This date was turning out to be great, more than great, actually. Brye couldn’t believe his luck… and that’s the reason why he was still in doubt. He was in awe of this woman. He couldn’t believe that nothing had gone wrong yet. But just to make sure… “Where does Norwegian fish come from?”
“Norway …” Olivia answered slowly, a little bewildered.
“Are calories good for the body?” He asked.
“Of course, they are the energy that gets burned off when you exercise.”
“Do you in any way associate yourself with clubbing?”
“No…” Olivia answered with a perturbed giggle.
“How old are you?”
“Eighteen…” Olivia squinted at him. “Why are you asking me all of these-”
“No reason!” Brye exclaimed quickly, changing the subject. “So about that movie did you want us to pick you up?”
“No that’s okay; I’ll meet you there, which theater and what time?”
~*~*~ Later that afternoon.
“Oh…hey Jaxson what’s up, where’s Joel?”
“He’s in there.” Jaxson pointed behind him to his and Joel’s dorm room. “I think he is heading out.” Jaxson added as he walked briskly down the corridor.
“Thanks…” Jace nodded making his way down the hall. He knocked lightly on the door and waited.
“It’s open.” He heard Joel call out.
“Hey…” Jace said as he entered the room.
“What’s up, Jace?” Joel asked zipping up his jeans.
“Jaxson said you were heading out, where you going?”
"Going to the movies.” Joel answered as he ran his belt through the loops on his jeans.
“Oh…you got a date?” Jace asked shyly as he slowly walked over to the brunette.
“A date?” Joel laughed.
“You know, Joel; I can’t remember the last time we hung out.” Jace said as he helped Joel fasten the belt buckle.
“We hang out all the time.” Joel pointed out.
“I said hang out…not hook up.” Jace corrected him.
“Jace…” Joel placed his hands on his shoulders looking into his hazel eyes. “For the past three years, we’ve never hung out…we just hook up.” Joel released Jace and walked over to the closet grabbing his black Air Force Ones.
Jace inhaled deeply, glaring at Joel. “That’s just it; I know we said it was nothing serious between us…”
“Not to mention, when we started this you were stepping out on…what was his name?”
“Dale…” Jace sighed he hated when Joel brought up Dale.
“Yeah…that’s it Dale.” Joel snapped his fingers. “How could I forget good old Dale?” Joel smirked. “We almost got caught a couple of times didn’t we…wait we did get caught.” Joel chuckled.
“It’s not funny, I cared about Dale.” Jace said trying to sound sincere.
“Really, I couldn’t tell.” Joel replied as he tied up his shoe.
“Touché…” Jace nodded, “Well, what if I told you I wanted to try it with you?”
Joel shook his head and laughed raising one eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Yeah…I mean we’re good together.”
“Sexually,” Joel pointed out.
“It could work,” Jace said now standing in front of Joel. “I mean, if we want it too.” He whispered into Joel’s ear as he kissed it.
Joel’s breath hitched. “Um…Jace, I’ve got to go.” He closed his eyes getting lost in the moment, slowly licking his lips as he felt Jace’s tongue caressing his neck right behind his ear.
He tugged at Joel’s shirt, pulling out from his jeans running his hand up Joel’s chest massaging it firmly as his lips made their way to Joel’s mouth launching an all out attack on his senses. He and Joel had been messing around long enough for Jace to know how to arouse him.
“Um…Mmmm” Joel let out a strangled moan as he allowed Jace’s tongue enter his mouth. They kissed heatedly as Jace backed Joel to the bed, his hands racking over Joel’s body trying to pull Joel's shirt over his head. “No…no…no… no” Joel struggled to speak between their tongues fiercely battling for dominance.
“Joeellll…” Jace moaned into Joel mouth.
Suddenly the thought of Ryan invaded his mind “Stop…” Joel pulled away abruptly.
“Oh…come on Joel, you know you want me.” Jace breathed heavily tickling Joel’s ear with his tongue.
“Why?” Jace wined with pleading eyes.
“I just can’t.” Joel held Jace off, “Ryan…” He stopped.
“Ryan…Ryan what?” Jace asked heatedly.
“Come on, I’m gonna be late.” Joel said grabbing his jacket as he walked to the door and opened it motioning for Jace to leave.
“Okay…okay.” Jace smiled devilishly as he made his was toward the door. “You know, I saw Ryan today.” Peaking Joel’s curiosity,
“Really?” Joel’s eyes widen with surprised. “What did you say to him?” Joel asked in an elevated tone.
“Don’t worry,” Jace threw his hands in the air fringing innocence. “We talked Greek Mythology that’s all…I offered my assistance, I know how hard that class can be.” He smiled.
Joel eyed him suspiciously, “Stay away from Ryan.” He said firmly. Joel knew how cunning and manipulative Jace could be and he didn’t want Ryan to get hurt.
“Don’t worry, Joel, I’m not going to bother your little boy toy.”
“It’s not like that.” Joel defended, than stated, “But Ryan is none of your business, you understand me?”
“Sir…yes sir.” Jace saluted jokingly. Joel just shook his head distrustingly???before walking away, leaving Jace standing in the hall. Jace watched until Joel was out of sight. He sighed heavily and pulled out his cell. He pressed his lips tightly together as he scanned his contacts before making his selection. He peered down the hall making sure the coast was clear.
“Hey, it’s me.” He spoke quietly into the phone. “I was thinking about what we talked about and I want to do it.” He said as he listened intently to the person on the other end.
“Yeah I understand, but you understand, I don’t want him hurt badly, you’ve gotta promise me that.” He spoke adamantly.
“Okay…” He said hesitantly, “I trust you to do the job right.” He stated then listened giving a slow nod that he understood what was being said. “Don’t worry, my word is good, you get what you want and I get what I want.” He smiled ending the call. He placed the phone in his pocket and sighed. He felt desperate... and a man that’s desperate will resort to desperate measures.
“So yeah, Ryan, she is amazing! I can’t wait for you to meet her.” Brye stated with excitement as he tucked his shirt into his jeans.
“Wow, that’s great! She soundsincredible." Ryan said and then chuckled. "What I can’t believe is Jaxson set it up after all the crazies.”
“Yeah I know…” Brye agreed thoughtfully. “I guess he saved the best for last.”
“I guess.” Ryan nodded. Byre could tell Ryan was a bit distracted. He walked over to his friend and placed his hand on his shoulder and sighed. Ryan had told him about his encounter Jace in the student lounge.
“Ryan, tonight is your first real date with Joel. You need to lighten up, don’t let Jace ruin it.”
“I know, I just….” Ryan left the statement hanging.
“You’re just letting him win.” Byre said as he sat down on the bed beside Ryan.
Ryan ran his fingers through his hair, biting nervously on the inside of his cheek.
“Listen, I know Joel is my brother,” Brye lowered his head trying to make eye contact with Ryan. “And I know that some of the things Jace and Kennedy told you are probably true, but you’ve gotta look at the source too. Not to mention, I would not have wanted you two together if I thought he would play games with you, Ryan.” Brye stated reassuringly. “I assure you anyone my brother’s been with know what they are getting into, he’s pretty straight up.”
“I know, its just I really like him, and I’m scared of how he makes me feel. Kind of like…Um, Jace said... like I’m the only one.” Ryan smiled sadly.
“Then ask him about it, tell him what Jace told you.” Byre said matter of factly.
“I don’t know…” Ryan sighed falling back on the bed.
Brye pulled Ryan back up to a sitting position. “Well, you better get ready because he will be here soon. We’re gonna have fun tonight.” Brye winked.
Ryan took his roommate’s advice. He got dressed very casually wearing a pair of faded jeans and a burgundy crew neck knit pullover shirt. He sat at his desk taking a few moments to jot some notes in his journal before Joel arrived. Ryan smiled as he watched Bryesing and dance around the room singing B.O.B’s ‘Nothing On You.’ Ryan shook his head and continued to write, knowing Brye must be thinking about Olivia. He was so engrossed in his writing, he didn’t notice Joel standing behind him.
Joel leaned over Ryan’s shoulder and whispered in a deep, sexy voice, “Hey you,” The warmth of Joel’s cinnamon laced breath tickled Ryan’s ear startling him.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to frighten you.” Joel said apologetically as he stepped back.
“It’s okay.” Ryan replied with his shoulders still tightly drawn to his ears. "I just didn’t hear you come in, that’s all.” Ryan quickly closed his journal and put it back in the drawer.
“I gathered that.” Joel laughed as he pulled out Ryan’s chair helping him to stand. “You look….Um…great…" Joel said with a nervous cough. He then cleared his throat and pulled Ryan closer to him. "May I?” He asked, lowering his head slowly, a bit hesitantly, towards Ryan’s lips to kiss him.
Ryan tried to steady his breathing as he felt Joel’s arms wrap around his waist. The feeling was always the same... incredible. Ryan nodded slowly; bringing his face toward Joel’s, he closed his eyes as he felt Joel’s mouth against his, leaving him breathless. Ryan wondered if Joel could feel the pounding in his chest as their bodies touched.
“Um…guys I’m in the room.” Brye chuckled slapping his brother on the back. Ryan pulled away, with redden cheeks.
“Oh, hey little one,” Joel laughed, with his arms still wrapped around Ryan’s waist. “You ready?”
“Yep, I do have one request though.” Brye pointed out.
“Oh yeah, and what would that be?” Joel asked as he released Ryan.
“Okay…well I really like Olivia, and I don’t want you guys to embarrass me.”
“Embarrass you?” Joel repeated trying not to laugh.
“Yeah you know, I don’t want her to think I’m a dork.”
”But, you are a dork.” Ryan teased causing Joel to laugh.
“Don’t worry little brother, I won’t 'embarrass you, and I'll make sure the guys, especially Emmett, don't as well. It’s a good thing Jaxson is not coming, then you might need to be concerned.” Joel held his hands up in defense.
“You look nice.” Ryan complimented, Joel was wearing a fitted white hoodie under a hunter green army jacket with a pair of relaxed fitting stone washed jeans and black air force ones and a fresh hair cut for the occasion.
“Thank you.” Joel smiled looking into Ryan smoky brown eyes.
“Okay guys let’s go, Olivia is meeting us there and I don’t want to keep her waiting." Brye encouraged, trying to hustle them out the door.
"After you.” Joel motioned for Ryan to go ahead of him. “So," Joel looked at Brye. "Tell me all about the little woman.” He laughed as he closed the door behind them.
Ryan, Joel, and Brye stood out front of the AMC Rivers East Theater waiting for Emmett, his date and Olivia to arrive.
Joel had purchased his, Ryan, Emmett, and Stephanie’s ticket, Emmett called saying they were running late, and he would pay Joel when he got there, while Brye got his and Olivia’s.
The movie’s show time was 8:30pm it was already 8:10 and Brye was starting to worry. He paced up and down the sidewalk biting nervously on his thumbnail hoping his date would arrive soon.
“Hey, little bro, relax she’ll show.” Joel said reassuringly. Joel rested his back against the red brick wall beside the large displayed picture of Russell Crowe as Robin Hood. Ryan rested his back against Joel’s chest loving the feel of his arms draped around his waist.
Ryan watched Brye pace back and forth and he couldn’t remember a time Brye was this nervous. “Yeah Brye relax.” He smiled warmly.
“What if she changes her mind, thinks I’m a loser or something?” Brye asked with a look of sheer terror on his face.
“Stop worrying she’ll be here.” Joel said confidently before kissing Ryan on the top of his head. Ryan was amazed at how openly affectionate Joel was in public. The few glances they received and it was just a few, Ryan was sure went un-noticed by Joel.
“There’s Emmett.” Joel nodded toward the couple heading in their direction. Ryan stepped aside as he felt Joel pushed himself off the wall. “I’ll be right back.” Joel said as he walked toward his friend. Ryan watched Joel and Emmett greet each other with their traditional handshake and double pat on the back.
Ryan walked over to Brye who was looking as if the world was going to end at any moment. His heart went out to him, he knew if Olivia didn’t show up Brye would be crushed.
“You okay?” Ryan asked in a hushed tone as he placed his hand consoling on his friends shoulder. A bob of the head along with a heavy sigh was Brye’sonly reply. The movie was about to start and everyone was heading inside.
“Hey you guys know Stephanie?” Joel asked as they approached Ryan and Brye. Stephanie was a cheerleader from school and Emmett’s date for the evening. She was very pretty with a slender “Barbie Doll” frame, the best tan that money could buy and long cascading loose blond hair that fell freely past her shoulders.
“Hey Stephanie.” Ryan greeted.
“Um…yeah, hey…” Bryesaid absentmindedly, clearly distracted looking over the throng of people making their way into the theater.
“Hey guys.” Stephanie’s voice was light and bubbly. Emmett stood next to her wrapping his arm around her waist causing her to giggle.
Joel and Ryan shared an amusing glance at Emmett’s hook up for the evening. Joel smiled as he held is hand out to Ryan’s. As Ryan reached for Joel’s hand a huge smile formed on his lips as he noticed a young woman heading their way. He figured she had to be Olivia; she was as pretty as Brye described and she had a sparkle in her eyes when she spotted him. She walks hurriedly toward them with an apologetic look in her eyes. Ryan nudged Joel on the shoulder and nodded in her direction.
“Ahhh…” His eyes widen with approval.
Her smiled was as bright and cheery, her long curly brown hair bounced off her shoulder with every step. She was dressed in a pair of faded skinny jeans, an orange floral tank that she wore under an open denim bolero sleeveless vest. She slowed down, as she got closer; she placed her finger to her lips
“Shhh….” She winked at Ryan and Joel and cautiously tipped toed behind Brye. She stifled a sweet giggle and placed her hands over his eyes.
“Guess who.” She said softly into Byre’s ear.
“Heyyyy…” Brye turned excitedly, resisting the urge to hug her. They both laughed standing there neither saying a word, just smiling at each other with silly grin.
“I thought you stood me up.” Byre admitted sounding relieved.
“Now why would I do that?” Olivia asked shrugging her shoulder still smiling at Brye.
“Hey guys the movie is starting we need to get inside.” Ryan reminded them.
“Yeah and I want to get some popcorn before we find out seats.” Joel added rubbing his hands together briskly.
“Oh yeah… Olivia this is my brother Joel…my friend Ryan, oh and…” He looked around. “The red head with the blond standing over there is Emmett and his friend Stephanie. Everyone this is Olivia.” He smiled proudly, her name flowed off his lips like a smooth melody.
“Hi everybody.” Olivia gave a shy wave and giggled softly “I’m sorry I’m late I had to drop my little brother off at the baby sitters before heading over.” She smiled at Brye.
“Oh no problem, we knew you would make it.” Joel said, “It’s nice to meet you Olivia.”
“It’s very nice to meet you.” Ryan extended his hand to greet her. Olivia smiled and shook Ryan’s hand as Brye stood by watching with a huge grin on his face.
Emmett and Stephanie said their hellos as everyone made their way inside the theater.
There were several lines formed at the concession stand. Emmett and Stephanie ordered the value pack, which consisted of two drinks and a large popcorn. As Brye and Olivia made their way to the front of the line, Olivia reached in her small purse to retrieve her money.
“Hey, what are you doing, I got you.” Byre smiled patting his back pocket. “Order what you want.” He insisted.
“Are you sure?” Olivia asked hesitantly, “I mean I’ve got money and I am kind of hungry.”
“Sure…” Brye waved as if it was no big deal.
“Okaay…thanks.” She stepped forward resting both hands on the counter and placed her order. “Okay I’ll have the pretzel bits with the jalapeños cheese dipping sauce please.” “We can share those.” She nodded to Brye eagerly.
“Sure…” Byre smiled stepping up to place his order and just as he opened his mouth to speak…. “And I’ll hav-“ Brye stopped mid sentence.
“And one beef hot dog loaded a small popcorn, Um…one box of hot tamales, and a diet coke.” Olivia smiled politely.
Bryestood there in shock, eyes widen and mouth agape as he listened taking in a huge breath of air. Joel noticed the look of surprise on his brother’s face and chuckled into his fist to hide his laughter. Ryan just buried his face in Joel’s chest to keep from laughing aloud, while Olivia was oblivious to Brye’sreaction.
Joel folded a twenty-dollar bill and secretly placed it in his brother’s back pocket. Brye glanced over his shoulder breathing a sigh of relief and with an appreciative look on his face, he mouthed the words
“Thank you.” Brye ordered an orange crush and a hot dog and called it a day.
Ryan and Joel went more traditional and ordered a large bucket of popcorn, nachos, two hot dogs, and two large cokes.
Once inside the theater everyone found their seats, sat back, and prepared to enjoy the movie. Joel did the yawn and stretch thing placing his arm around Ryan’s shoulder who just smiled and snuggled his head under Joel’s arm resting it against his chest. He inhaled deeply allowing Joel’s natural fresh scent to lull him At that moment nothing else mattered, not what Jace said or what Kenney insinuated…at that moment Joel was all his.
Ryan smiled reaching into the tub of buttery popcorn, grabbing a hand full. He reached up placing a few at the entrance of Joel mouth. Joel stuck out his tongue pulling the fluffy cornels inside, enjoying the hot buttery treat.
“Mmm…good.” He said between chews. Ryan smiled and placed the remaining few into his own mouth.
After the movie was over, the gang stood outside of the theater giving their reviews.
“Well if you ask me, I would give it a solid ‘C’.” Emmett said.
“Yeah, I think it was okay, but I have to agree with you.” Ryan added, “Definitely a ‘C’.” Joel nodded with a half shrug pulling Ryan closer to him.
“I thought it was pretty good, I’d say a ‘B’. Stephanie added.
“I like more of a romantic movie.” Olivia sighed dreamingly, causing Brye and everyone to smile.
“Okay guys…what do you say to pizza, beer and a game of pool?” Joel suggested.
“Pizza sound wonderful, I’m starving.” Olivia giggled rubbing her tummy. Brye laughed shaking his head in disbelief.
“Give the lady what she wants.” He smiled.
“Okay Nicks Billiard Academy it is. Olivia, did you need a ride?” Joel asked.
“No I drove, want to ride over with me Brye?” She asked.
“You know how to get there?” Joel inquired.
“Yes, it’s off Pulski Rd in the strip center.” Olivia answered fishing for her keys.
“We’ll see you over there.” Brye nodded as he and Olivia headed to her car.
They all showed up around the same time and headed inside. The place was littered with Billiard tables, arcade games lined against sidewall. Closer to the back was the dance floor surrounded by dining tables. As they stepped in the sound of Duran Duran’s Notorious was blasting through the speakers drawing several folks to the dance floor.
“Oh my god, I love this song.” Stephanie squealed with delight. “Dance with me.” She said dragging Emmett on to the dance floor.
“Hey man what do you want on your pizza!?” Joel called out.
“Whatever is fine!” Emmett replied already grooving to the electric beat.
Joel laughed and asked, “Okay guys what do you want?” Ryan, Brye, and Olivia looked thoughtfully at the menu on the wall in front of them.
“What about the California pizza?” Olivia asked.”
“That’s fine with me.” Brye agreed.
“What about you babe?” Joel smiled placing his hand on the small of Ryan’s back.
“Um…” Ryan hesitated unsure of what he wanted.
“They make a really good Greek pizza.” Olivia offered. Ryan read the ingredients. It had Peeled Plum tomatoes, Garlic, and Fresh Bocconcini Mozzarella in Marinara Sauce topped with fresh Basil.
“There’s no meat on that one.” Ryan laughed, “You mom would like that.” He said nudging Brye in the ribs.
“Yeah, right.” Brye laughed.
“What about the ‘God Father’, it has sausage, pepperoni, and bacon.” Joel suggested as he scanned the variety of pizzas offered.
“Okay let’s go with that.” Ryan said.
“Oh and can we get an order of wings and garlic bread?” Olivia asked shyly. “I’m a little hungry.”
“Good god man, how are you going to feed that woman?” Ryan leaned over and whispered in Brye’s ear. Brye just nodded, stupefied.
“Okay so two large pizzas, order of wings and bread sticks...cool?” Joel confirmed their order before placing it. “Oh and a pitcher of Beer and a pitcher of soda?” He asked with a shrug of the shoulder. Everyone agreed.
While Emmett and Stephanie were still on the dance floor and Usher’s Yeah started to play.
“Heyyy… come on Brye lets dance.” Olivia started dancing by herself. Brye joined in as they danced onto floor.
“Let’s go.” Joel nodded to crowd on the floor.
“Let’s go.” Ryan laughed heading to the dance floor. They ended up next to Brye and Olivia who was getting low on the dance floor swinging her hips from side to side seductively, pulling her hair back of her shoulders as she guided Brye to mimic her moves. Joel smiled impressed by her style of dancing.
Emmett teasingly did the ‘Cabbage Patch’ dancing his was over to the group. Right in the middle of the song, the DJ slid “Beyonce’s Single ladies into the mix causing the guys to step back and watch Olivia and Stephanie dance with the rest of the girls on the dance floor holding their left hand up in the air as they danced to the song. That song went right into ‘Get Me Bodied’ and then into ‘Love Like This’ remix, and they motioned for the guys to rejoin them back on the dance floor. Joel pulled Ryan back on the dance floor as Emmett and Brye joined their dates.
By the end of the set, everyone was tired, sweaty, and thirsty. They made their way over to their table where the server placed the food and drinks...
“Is this us?” Emmett asked as he used the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow.
“Yeah.” Joel answered pouring Ryan a glass of beer as everyone set down.
“God, I need a drink.” Stephanie said trying to catch her breath, pulling her hair off her neck fanning it with her hand in an effort to cool down.
“Girl you got some moves.” Brye complimented Olivia as he took a sip of his beer.
“Yeah, it’s called mirror dancing.” Olivia replied taking a bite of her bread stick.
“Mirror dancing?” Ryan questioned.
“Yeah, you know…dancing in the mirror when no one is watching.” Olivia giggled.
“Ohhh…” Ryan laughed pulling off a slice of Pizza.
“This is really good.” Joel nodded between chews.
“Yeah it is…” Everyone agreed while eating.
Everyone was stuffed, well everyone except Olivia who was finishing off the last of the California pizza.
“Come on man; let me kick your ass in a game of pool.” Joel said to Emmett.
“Fuck that man I got five that says I’ll kick your ass dude.”
“Make it ten and you’ve got a deal.” Joel teased.
Joel won the first game taking Emmett’s ten, who insisted on playing another in order to win back his money.
Olivia sat quietly as she watched the boys play another game of pool. Her fingers twirled the ends of her long, curly hair. It was amusing to her; the boys focusing so seriously on the game.
"Hurry up and shoot, man.” Emmett complained as Joel eyed the table speculatively.
"Be patient.” Joel stated and looked at how many billiard balls he had left. He was solids and Emmett was stripes.
"I am patient, but I don't want this game to last until the next millennium.” Emmett said. Joel leaned forward, positioning the pool stick and his eyes, sparkling with amusement, shot up to Emmett.
"So eager to lose again, Emmett?” Joel chuckled. Emmett flicked him off and Joel just laughed, pulling the stick back and striking the cue ball with ease. It rolled, knocking into a striped 14, hitting a solid 3 into a corner pocket.
"What the hell!” Emmett complained, ready to snap the billiard stick in half.
"Chill, man, it's just a game." Brye said.
"To you, maybe," Emmett scoffed. "But for someone like me, who can actually play, it's a big deal."
"Yeah, whatever, man," Brye rolled his eyes and smirked at Olivia, who giggled in return.
Joel eyed the table again; he now only had to get the 8 ball in to win. So, to stroke his ego, he took his time to stretch, cracking the joints in his neck and fingers amusing Ryan, who just shook his head and smiled proudly.
"So, who wants to play after I kick Emmett's ass…again?” He asked. No one raised their hand or announced that they would play. Olivia looked around, timidly biting her lip, before slowly raising her hand.
"Uh… I will," She offered. Joel smiled at her.
"Cool," he said.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Emmett exclaimed. "This little girl wants to play?” He questioned and laughed. "Oh, that's rich!"
"Emmett, don't be an ass," Brye defended and wrapped an arm around Olivia's shoulders. "I’m sure my girl can play."
Everyone shot him a look after he said that. It took Brye a while to realize what he said, before he dropped his arm and rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"Well, Brye, I'd like to see your girl try." Emmett mocked.
"Never underestimate a girl, Emmett." Ryan warned.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Let's finish this." Emmett brushed off. Joel shook his head and walked around the table, trying to find a good angle. Once he did, he lean forward one last time, and positioned the stick.
“Eight ball in the side pocket.” Joel announced his move.
Then, pulling his arm back, he snapped the stick forward, striking the cue ball and effortlessly hitting the ball into the side pocket just as he said, effectively ending the game.
"On to the next one," Joel said with a smirk. Emmett glared at him and picked up his beer from the side table.
"Must be something in the beer," He mumbled before taking a sip. "Alright, Little Miss Sunshine," Emmett threw a smug look at Olivia. "Let's see what ya' got."
"It's alright, Livvy, you've got this." Stephanie encouraged. Olivia smiled and stood up from her seat. Everyone watched quietly as she pulled a hair band out of her pocket, and pulled her full locks up into a ponytail.
"Rack 'em up, boys." She said and everyone gave 'whoops' and whistles as she chocked up the end of a billiard stick. Joel smirked and racked up the billiard balls on the table. Once finished, he gave a nod signaling the game to start.
"Ladies first," He offered. Everyone could feel the energy buzz through the room causing them to stop what they were doing and look in the direction of the group of friends surrounding the pool table. One of the people sitting at the bar smirked and got up. He walked over to the jukebox and popped a quarter in, quickly choosing a song.
Olivia smiled at Joel and positioned herself in front of the cue ball. She leaned forward, pulling the stick back, striking the cue ball with ease, knocking the rest into disarray. "Go Insane," by Lindsey Buckingham suddenly blasted through the speakers and the game began.
Joel eyed the table, cupping his right hand around his chin in thought. Then, he smirked and aimed at the cue ball, striking it. The ball rolled across the table, knocking a solid 3 into a side pocket. Joel smirked triumphantly while Olivia kept a poker face as Joel struck the cue ball again, this time only tapping a solid lightly.
It was Olivia's turn and she tried to find a stripe to get her in the game. She found one and leaned forward. She struck the cue ball, effectively knocking a striped six into a corner pocket. Everyone's eyes widened and she smirked, walking around the table to find another angle.
Minutes passed, and the table was now down to a few billiard balls; Olivia was winning. Emmett stood up awestruck, when he watched Olivia go for the 8 ball. She leaned forward calling her shot in deep concentration and hit the cue ball, knocking the 8 ball into a pocket.
"No fucking way!" Emmett gasped as everyone cheered. Brye stood up and grabbed Olivia around the waste, spinning her around.
"You go girl!" Stephanie cheered, taking a chug of beer.
"No way, that's it!" Emmett said defiantly. "Rack 'em up!” He demanded and Joel did so with a laugh. Emmett snatched a stick of the rack on the wall and looked at Olivia. "Me against you." He stated with seriousness.
Soon, the game began and both were equally competitive. Beads of perspiration formed their foreheads as they each took turns making shots. In the end, Olivia beat Emmett as well.
"She cheated!" Emmett complained, only to get laughs in return. This time Ryan stood up.
"I'll play her," He offered and started to rack up the balls once again. This went on for a while, each person taking turns playing against Olivia, and each taking turns losing against Olivia. It was a known fact: Olivia was the billiard champion.
The evening could have not been more perfect, movie, dancing, pizza, and pool.
“Wow, guys, I had a great time. It was really nice meeting you all.” Olivia smiled.
“Great meeting you too.” Joel said, “And I hope it won’t be the last time.”
“Oh it won’t.” She smiled glancing at Brye.
“Well, Stephanie and I are heading out.” Emmett announced taking her by the hand.
“Yes, it was great. Nice to meet you Olivia we have to become Face Book friends.” Stephanie suggested
“Cool…My last name is Moran.”
“Bye guys.” Stephanie waved as she and Emmett headed to the parking lot.
“You coming with us little Bro?” Joel asked wrapping his arm around Ryan’s waist.
“Um…” Brye hesitated.
“I can bring him home.” Olivia stated, “Maybe we can stop and get some ice cream, my treat.”
“Sure.” Brye nodded eagerly. He was glad Olivia offered, he was not ready for their date to end.
“Okay… see you later.” Joel waved dropping his arm from Ryan’s waist and taking his hand into his.
“See you; it was really nice to meet you Olivia.” Ryan smiled as he and Joel headed to Joel’s Jeep.
“I had a really good time tonight…thanksfor inviting me.” Stephanie said as she straddled Emmett on the bed.
“Thanks for coming.” He replied in a hushed tone, pushing her hair back off the soft shoulder. She bit her lower lip seductively as she felt Emmett’s hand run up her back, using one hand to unsnap her bra. Stephanie smiled as she slid it off her shoulders dropping it beside the bed.
Emmett leaned forward pressing his firm chest against soft breast pulling her down onto of him as he kissed her neck and shoulder. She pulled her hair back allowing him access to area above her supple breast.
Emmett kissed it tenderly, before placing his lips to hers engaging in a passionate kiss. Their foreplay prepared them for what was to happen next.
“You know your friends are really nice.” Olivia said taking a spoon of ice cream into her mouth. She and Brye sat outside of the ‘Marble Slab Creamery’ enjoying the night air eating their ice cream.
“Yeah, they’re cool.” Byre replied as he licked the side of his pistachio flavored ice cream.
“Your brother and Ryan make a really cute couple…How long have they been dating?” She asked curiously.
“Well it’s unofficial actually. They see each other around school, but this is the first time they actually went out on a date.”
“Really…no way.” Olivia said in shock. “They seemed so comfortable around each other, so natural.” She noted.
“I agree. What about you, do you date much?” Brye inquired licking the melted ice cream that was dripping down the side of his waffle cone,
“No not really. I find the guys my age to be somewhat shallow. Present company excluded.” She smiled.
“Yeah, the guys now days are only after one thing.”
“That is?” Brye asked.
“Sex…it’s like they have sex on the brain. They take you out, they want to have sex. They buy you a coke…they want to have sex…Sex. Sex sex…jeeze.” She sighed, placing another spoon full of ice cream in her mouth.
“The nerve of some guys.” Brye laughed humorlessly and sighed.
“That’s what I like about you Brye, you seem different.”
“Yeah…yeah.” Brye nodded slowly.
“I want to save myself for my husband.” Olivia announced. “I think it would be so romantic.”
“So you like romance huh?” Brye asked.
“And you.” Olivia smiled as she leaned in to kiss Brye on the cheek causing him to blush.
Are you sure we won’t get caught?” Ryan asked worriedly as he and Joel made their way onto the football field. It was 1:30 in the morning and the open stadium was deserted. The only laminationwas from the starry night above.
“I’m sure, you said you trusted me.” Joel laughed as he led Ryan down by the field post. Joel carried two blankets in his arm, while holding Ryan’s hand with his free one.
Ryan revered, “It’s so huge.” He said as he looked around taking it all in.
“Try running it.” Joel laughed as he laid one of the blankets on the ground.
“No, I’ll leave that to you Mr. Running Back. He laughed, and then sighed. “You don’t realize how big it is down here from up in the stands.”
“I love it out here.” Joel said glancing around the empty stadium as he sat down. He was amazed at how fascinated Ryan seemed by all of this and he was happy he could experience this moment with him.
“You love the game don’t you?” Ryan asked looking over his shoulder to the brunette.
“Yeah…I do.” Joel said thoughtfully. “I want to go to the NFL.” Joel added.
“Really?” Ryan asked as he sat down beside Joel.
“You sound surprised.”
“I figured you for more of the business type.”
“Well I want to have something to fall back on once my sports career is finished, I can’t play football all my life, it’s tough on the body.”
“Yeah, taking all those hits, I don’t see how you guys do it.” Ryan said as he picked up a blade of grass. “And real grass too.” He chuckledholding it in the air.
“You’re so crazy.” Joel laughed. “Yeah, once the adrenaline gets pumping you don’t even feel your body hitting the ground, until after the game is over, then you ache like hell.”
Joel looked intently into Ryan’s brown eyes patting his lap motioning for Ryan to lay his head there, before he asked, “Tell me about Ryan Smith, what makes him tick?”
Ryan sighed, laying back getting comfortable, placing his head in Joel’s lap. “There’s not much to tell really.” He said as he crossed his arms over his chest, looking up into the twilight sky...
“Nah…there is a lot about you I don’t know and I want to know everything, from what makes you happy, sad, scared, what your dreams are…everything.”
“Really why?” Ryan asked incredulity looking up into Joel’s dark blue eyes.
“Why…because I like you Ryan.” Joel said honestly. “I want to get to know you; I want you to get to know me too.”
Ryan paused a moment and thought about his answer. “I come from a small town called Champaign. I have one brother and two sisters…and I want to be a writer.” He stated casually.
“A writer eh…that’s cool, I’m sure you’ll be great.”
“Thank you.” Ryan replied humbly.
“But I see so much more, then a big brother and a writer, when I look at you.” Joel said as he played in Ryan’s hair.
“What do you see?” Ryan asked skeptically.
“I see a perfectionist, I see a lover of life, someone who is smart, thoughtful, funny, and one who cares deeply for his family and friends.”
“Wow…you see all that in me?” Ryan asked in a serious tone.
“Yeah, you’re amazing….”
Ryan’s breathed hitched as he looked into Joel’s alluring blue eyes as he pushed the stray hairs for Ryan’s face.
“So… tell me about you…how does it feel being the most popular guy in school?” Ryan said changing the subject.
Joel chuckled, “The old switch a roo eh?”
“So tell me.” Ryan laughed.
“I really don’t think about it.” Joel said with a shrug of the shoulder. “I have my friends I hang out with. It’s not like I go around the school thinking I’m the shit or anything, and once I graduate all this will be a thing of the past.” He said thoughtfully.
“So what’s your back up plan after you make the ‘Pros’?” Ryan asked as he turned to face Joel.
“I love film; I’m taking a film editing class this semester actually.”
“Wow that’s cool.”
“Yeah I guess.” Joel replied. “So Ryan, have you ever had a steady guy?” Now it was Joel to flip the script. His question caught Ryan a little off guard.
“Yeah a boyfriend.” Joel repeated through laughter.
“I went out on a few dates, but no steady boyfriend or guy as you put it…you?”
“Nope…” Joel said nonchalantly.
“No one steady….what about Jace?”
“What about Jace?” Joel repeated Ryan’s question, actually questioning himself. “Hum…” He sighs scratching the back of his head looking for the right words.
“Let’s just say I’m not interested in a relationship with Jace…He not my type emotionally.”
“Seriously?” Ryan questioned, “Because that’s not what he thinks.”
“How would you know what Jace thinks?” Joel asked curiously.
“Well he paid me a little visit today.”
“Jace gets around.” Joel said under his breath.
“Nothing, what did he say exactly?”
“He said that you guys have a history, that you like to step out, but you always go back to him.”
“A dog returning to his vomit.” Joel sighed. “Okay Ryan, Jace and I have been, well you know…god this is hard.”
“Because…You know Ryan I look at my parents and I want what they have and I don’t see that with Jace at all…” Ryan gave an understanding nod as he listened intently.
“They have been married for 31 years, happily I might add and still very much in love. I always wondered if I could have that. I want kids someday; I want to teach my son or daughter how to throw the football. I want a man that’s confident and shares my dreams and desires.”
“And Jace is not the one.” Ryan said with understanding.
“No, he’s not. But he’s a sure thing.” Joel admitted sadly.
“I know I’m gay…I’m different according to society standards…a minority, hell… look at Tank.”
“Oh… yeah.” Ryan figured out whom Joel was talking about.
“A big black dude, you should see the looks we get sometimes, it doesn’t bother him, I mean what can he do about it…What can I do? It’s who I am. My mother and father accepted me saying it was normal for me, as normal as breathing, I can’t…I won’t let the world decide how I live my life, I’m out and proud.”
“You know Joel, that’s what I love about you.” Joel leaned back with a surprised gaze. “Yeah love.” Ryan repeated and smiled warmly.
“You’re so comfortable with who you are, I want a family someday too, and I want my kids to have a father that’s sure of himself and can teach our kids something about life…pride… about love.” Ryan said admiringly.
“Thank you Joel…”
“For being you…for allowing me to see the depth of you, to see more than just Joel the jock.”
“So did I impress you?” Joel asked jokingly.
“A little.” Ryan smiled holding up his index and thumb.
“Enough for you to want to go out with me…date me?” Joel asked running is fingers through his hair nervously.
“What?” Ryan rose up resting on his elbows.
“See, Ryan I don’t know how to do this, and you are putting me on the spot here.”
“What?” Ryan chuckled.
“Do you want to date me?” Joel asked nervously. “You think you want to try it with me?”
“What about all the other guys… your fans?” Ryan teased.
“Don’t worry about them. If you say yes, it’s only you and me I promise you that.”
“No more Jace?” Ryan asked inching his face closer to Joel’s.
“No more Jace.”
“No more random guys?” Ryan said moving a little closer.
“Jace can be persistent.” Ryan insisted.
“So can I, I know what I want.”
“And what’s that?” Ryan’s warm breath caressed Joel’s mouth.
“I want you, to build something with you.” Joel’s voice was now a little deeper.
“You want us to be like your mom and dad?”
“No…just you and me.” Joel answered as he felt Ryan’s hand caress his check. Ryan closed his eyes tilting his face toward Joel’s and kissed him, softly at first pulling him into his embrace as he deepened the kiss.
Joel pulled back breathlessly, “So is that a yes?”
“UmHum…” Ryan nodded kissing him again. Ryan lay on his back, pulling Joel forward on top of him. Their kiss intensifies as their bodies respond to each other. Joel’s breathing becomes shallow as he feels Ryan’s hand crawlunder his shirt clawing at his back, racking his hands over his firm shoulders… pressing their bodies tightly together.
Ryan’s tongue clamed Joel’s mouth aggressively, their erotic moans of want filled the stadium, the kiss was desperate full of greed and lust. Joel felt Ryan hardness pressed against his own and pulled back.
“What’s wrong?” Ryan asked through bated breath, pulling Joel back into the kiss, this was what he wanted, he was sure of it. It was a natural progression their bodies moved together gracefully, Joel looked down into Ryan’s lust filled eyes asking the question, nothing verbal was spoken, just a slow nod and a deep kiss was his answer.
His heart was beating sporadically in his chest, so loud it was deafening.
“Keep your eyes on me…” Joel’s words echoed in his mind as they undressed each other. “Keep your eyes on me Ryan.” Something that sounded so simple was almost impossible to do. Ryan knew if he were to look into Joel’s eyes he would see how frighten he was. This felt like a dream, as if he was floating…suspended in mid air.
Faint labored moans escaped Ryan’s mouth with every lick...every flicker of Joel’s tongue against his skin, he had never experienced anything like this… nothing had ever felt this good. Ryan glanced down at Joel’s dark thick hair running his fingers through it; he couldn’t believe this gorgeous guy wanted to be with him.
“Relax Ryan, it’s just you and me here, it’s okay.” Joel assured him. Ryan sucked in a huge breath of air and slowly released it feeling his body quiver under Joel’s touch. His soft, warm lips eagerly caressed every inch of Ryan’s skin, sending chills down his spin.
Joel took his cues from Ryan, touching him here, kissing him there, learning what he liked… his quiet moans…his soft sighs was Joel’s sweet reward.
A tender kiss to his stomach caused Ryan’s breath to hitch; Joel lingered there providing intense pleasure, a tender grazing of his teeth against Ryan’s nipples caused him to cry out as Joel peppered his chest with heated kisses showing his body exclusive attention.
Ryan reveled in the feel of Joel’s strong hands firmly massaging his entire body, ‘This had to be what love felt like.’
Joel focused his attention on Ryan's thighs, especially his inner thighs, caressing them… kneading them with the palm of his hands, loving the feel of Ryan’s skin under his finger tips, nibbling softly on the delicate skin between Ryan’s legs, enjoying the timid whimpers tickling his ears.
His tongue brushed against the soft reddish blond hair that lay against his pelvis causing short shallow breaths to erupt from his prey, he was the first to touch Ryan here, the first to ever see him like this, this was indeed uncharted territory.
When Joel felt Ryan start to relaxed he turned his attention to Ryan’s swollen erection, he had purposely been neglecting, saving the best for last, grazing it a little with the tips of his fingers causing it to twitch in response.
“Can I touch you there?” Joel whispered as mesmerizing blue eyes seduced smoky brown ones. Ryan blew out a labored breath, nodded, and closed his eyes slowly lowering his head back on the blanket in anticipation of what was to happen next.
Ryan’s body tensed as he felt Joel's warm hand touch him, firmly stroke him, from the base of the shaft to the throbbing smooth head using the pre-cum as lubricate, massaging the pulsating filled veins.
He gasped for air, his eyes opened quickly as he felt the warmth of Joel’s tongue lick the top of the head exploring the hole in the center, teasing it with the tip of his tongue before slowly taking it into his mouth, running his tongue around the rim of it.
“Oh...my…god…mmm".Ryan sighed through a strangled moan. Joel used his hand and mouth to pleasure Ryan, skillfully taking as much of him into his mouth without gagging.
Joel cupped Ryan’s balls gently in his hand, not neglecting them, scratching them with his fingernails just enough to stimulate them, kissing them before he took his shaft deeper into his throat,, bobbing his head up and down, licking and sucking applying pressure with every stroke.
As much as he tried, Ryan could not resist the urge to move his hips to Joel’s rhythm. His hips swayed from side to side, doing a seductive dance, enjoying the warmth of Joel’s mouth wrapped around his cock.
The bucking of Ryan’s hips, the whimpering…the clenching of his fist in Joel's hair signaled him to go faster.
“Faster…go faster.” Ryan said hesitantly.
“I’m gonna…Uhmm…Uhmm” Ryan forced out a moan caught in his throat, the feeling was intense, as he felt his body convulsing, gasping for air, his back arched, his cries of ecstasy that filled the empty stadium floated high into the heavens as his silky warm fluid filled Joel's mouth, splashing against the back of his throat coating his tongue.
“Mmmm…” Joel used his hand to milk every drop savoring the unique flavor of his lover; feeling complete satisfaction that he brought Ryan to this place of unadulterated bliss.
Ryan's body shivered uncontrollably as he descended off his high, feeling every tight muscle in his body start to relax.
“Joellll”He whispered, his voice still shaken, reaching for his hand, as Joel slowly released him from his mouth.
He took Ryan’s hand into his securely. “Shhh…It’s alright baby, just ride it out.” Joel spoke kindly as he stroked Ryan’s trembling stomach, his hand soothing to the touch.
With the taste of Ryan still lingering on his tongue, he crawled up Ryan’s body providing heat to the shivering blond. Tenderly caressing his cheek, Joel placed his tongue inside Ryan’s mouth sharing the moment with him… the taste of them. Kissing him passionately, pulling him into his embrace.
“Are you okay?” Joel asked gently tracing Ryan’s jaw line with the pad of his thumb.
“My god what are you trying to do to me?” Ryan asked still trying to catch his breath.
“I did well?”
“Um-humm, Ryan answered feeling completely satisfied..."this is what I want Joel, I want tonight with you.”
Joel inhaled deeply, “You sure?” He asked lovingly, gazing into Ryan’s trusting eyes.
“Yes…” Ryan lay back, turning himself completely over to Joel, “I trust you Joel.”
Joel placed his lips tenderly against Ryan’s, his tongue pressed past the lips of his willing partner, loving the feel, the rush of excitement the warmth of his mouth brought him. Their tongues playing together, exploring one another, sampling the sweet taste that was their union. It was as if there was nothing left in the world but them; they had created a new world, full of passion, energy, attraction…. Releasing themselves to the strong pull that they had for one another.
Joel pulled back breaking the kiss, gazing lovinglyat the man beneath him. He tenderly pushed back Ryan’s hair from his face, wanting to look into his eyes when they made love for the very first time. He caressed his face knowing that nothing would be the same after tonight.
Not only was it Ryan’s first time, but it would be the first time for Joel as well. It was never about the emotional aspect of it for him, it was about self-gratification, doing what totally felt good to him, but not tonight, tonight was about pleasing Ryan.
Ryan took Joel’s hand gently raising it to his lips. He lightly brushed his tongue across the palm before kissing it.
“I’m ready,” he spoke softly into Joel’s hand almost in a whisper.
“Are you?” Joel asked placing his finger into Ryan’s mouth. The feeling of his wet tongue seductively sucking on his fingers stirred the fire within him, causing an awakening of all Joel’s senses.
Joel slowly licked his lips being aroused at the sight before him, Ryan was so beautiful, as he sexily tongue kissed each finger, making them wet, preparing them to enter into him.
“UmHumm…” Ryan nodded as Joel pulled his fingers from his mouth. He lay beside him, face to face, positioning himself as he kissed Ryan’s chest to distract him.
“Keep your eyes on me.” He whispered as he carefully lifted Ryan’s leg, resting it upon his own.
Joel takes his wet fingers and gingerly plays at Ryan’s entrance. Watching Ryan’s expression, gauging his every move, he noticed a hesitation in Ryan’s eyes for a moment, when he was giving an approving nod his slowly pressed one finger inside causing a distressed moan to escape Ryan’s mouth, his muscle tighten, around Joel’s finger, he could feel the tension.
“Easy.” Joel spoke kindly, never taking his eyes off Ryan. He steadied his finger allowing Ryan to get used to something being inside of him. As he felt the tightness around his finger ease a little, and seeing Ryan release the breath he was holding, he pushed it in and out slowly and steadily before adding another finding his way to his inner core, the spot that caused Ryan to whimper in ecstasy.
He watched, being turned on by the erotic moans coming from him, watching Ryan’s growing erection as he fingered him. He continued to play inside him, getting Ryan ready to receive him.
Going at his own pace, using Joel’s fingers to pleasure himself, Ryan rocked back and forth on them, enjoying the feeling of Joel’s long nimble fingers inside. Joel watched as Ryan slowly takes his hand and wraps it around his erection stroking it firmly, doubling his satisfaction.
“Ummm…” Ryan moaned with pleasure, licking his lips slowly. Joel leaned forward kissing his moist lips as he carefully removed his fingers.
“Noooo…” Ryan sighed feeling a void. He positioned himself on his back watching Joel tear open the condom and roll onto his hard cock. At that moment, Ryan struggled to breathe, feeling anxious as Joel placed the folded blanket beneath him elevating him slightly.
He felt Ryan’s body tremble. “Are you sure?” Joel asked once again, tracing the outline of Ryan’s body with his finger admiring his beauty, making sure this was what Ryan wanted.
“Yes…” Ryan eyed him timidly, “Joel?”
“What do I do with my legs?” He asked shyly.
“Just wrap them around me… around my waist.” Joel answered warmly, before kissing him.
Ryan did as instructed as Joel caressed his thighs. The initial feeling was not what Ryan expected, not that he knew what to expect. He inhaled deeply as he felt Joel enter him. The stretching…the burning…the pain was a part of it.
Joel stopped as he watched the look of discomfort on Ryan’s face.
“No…don’t stop.” Ryan whispered faintly as he buried his face in Joel’s chest, biting on his bottom lip. Joel gave an understanding nod, kissed the top of Ryan’s head, and continued his journey to the paradise that awaited him.
It was as if Ryan was watching in slow motion, taking his breath away, the feeling of Joel inside him was intense, making him feel alive. Ryan held him tightly digging his fingernails into his skin.
Joel was gentle with him, going deeper inside of him, every stroke had a purpose, no move was random. Ryan’s hips met Joel’s with every thrust, moving in and out alternating fast with slow strokes, swiveling his hips slightly, moving to their own rhythm, hitting Ryan’s spot time after marvelous time while buried deep inside him, releasing the carnal desire that had been locked within him.
Their bodies glisten with perspiration glowing, as they made love to each other under twilight sky, the heavens was their captive audience. This moment belonged to them. This was now their special place as they both were making love for the very first time.
Joel’s body pressed tightly against Ryan’s created heated between them, making him feel as if he was going to cum again at any minute. Labored moans filled the air as Joel’s thrust became more desperate, more heated with every stroke. The feeling was sensational. Incoherent words of lust kissed Ryan’s ear as the pressure mounted, his breathing became erratic, and his heart pounded in his chest. The combination of Joel’s skillful moves, along with the stimulation he was receiving sent him over the edge.
“Uhuh…Uhuh…Uhmmmm.” Ryan tried to hold back his cries, arching his back, dragging his fingernails down Joel’s spine almost drawing blood, he let out a loud cry of passion as warm cum erupted between them fusing them together, making them one; he struggled to breathe, with every forced release, experiencing a sweet death.
He buried his face in Joel’s chest muffling the moans trying to escape his lips, feeling a rebirth, a literal crossing over.
Joel thrust became faster; going deeper into Ryan’s craving body. He couldn’t hold out any longer and the thought of Ryan belonging to him, being his exclusively was overwhelming even for Joel. He had never experienced anything of this magnitude, anything as powerful…as making love to Ryan, the connection, the completeness he felt at this very moment was euphoric. The release; insurmountable, spilling the fruitage of his labor into Ryan, who eagerly accepted.
Ryan held Joel within his embrace, kissing him, sealing the deal, Joel’s strong body now belonged to Ryan, they belonged to each other. They laid there holding each other, basking in their lovemaking. Somehow, the air was different, it felt crisper, clean…new, they were different…free.
As Joel pulled out, he noticed Ryan’s body start to tremble and a single tear roll down his cheek..
He kissed his stomach as he crawled up to Ryan taking him into him arms. “You’re crying…are you okay, did I hurt you?” Joel asked with concern.
“No.” Was Ryan’s simple reply, using his finger to wipe away the tear. "I don't know why I'm crying," He laughed, "I feel..." He left the statement suspended in mid air, sighing deeply.
“How do you feel?” Joel whispered into Ryan’s hair as he kissed him.
“I feel fine.” Ryan replied. “No I feel better than fine…I feel.” Ryan sighed thoughtfully as he thought about tonight’s events, the movie, Nick’s and most of all this moment, tonight he shared something special with Joel… he shared himself. “I feel amazing.” He answered, meaning every word.
“Good.” Joel laughed, sounding relieved.
“What’s so funny?”
“You are, you’re adorable…sweet.” Joel said as he wrapped Ryan within his arms. He pulled the blanket up covering them.
“Ahhh…you say that now after getting what you want.” Ryan teased.
“No…no that’s not true, I’ve always said that about you, that’s what drew me to you.” Joel defended.
A warm smile formed on Ryan’s lips, “Thank you.”
“For being you, for being gentle with me, making this important experience something I’ll always remember.” Ryan sighed fondly, “I was scared if you didn’t notice.” He laughed lightly was he adjusted the blanket.
“It’s normal to be scared.” Joel agreed, “I remember my first time.”
“Hey…” Ryan laughed trying to sound insulted, “I don’t want you thinking about other guys while you're with me.” He pouted crossing his arms defiantly over his chest.
Joel laughed, “Not like that, I mean just the fear of the unknown, you don’t know what to expect, what goes where, it surly was not like in the books my dad kept under the bed, you know the Playboys and Hustler.” He laughed, “I mean as a gay man or woman we have to be creative in the way we make love, not saying that’s a bad thing you understand, but we do.”
“Yeah…” Ryan said thoughtfully. “I guess you’re right.”
“I think we could be good together.”
“Really?’ Ryan asked incredulity.
Joel shook his head. “You just don’t get it do you?” He asked raising one eyebrow quizzically.
“I guess I don’t.”
“That’s okay, you will.” He said through a sleep-laden yawn. He sighed pulling Ryan closer to him. Ryan laughed feeling himself getting sleepy.
They decided to stay just a little longer enjoying their own peace of heaven they created just for themselves.
“What the hell?” Joel said trying to focus as cool water splashed him in the face.
“Ryan wake up, it’s raining.” He yawned, trying to pull his arm from under Ryan's body.
“I said we need to get going, it’s raining.” Joel looked around and noticed it wasn't raining but the automatic sprinkler system set to go off at 5:00am. Ryan lay still asleep, causing Joel to laugh noticing their clothes were soaked.
“Come on baby we need to get out of here before the landscapers come.”
Ryan’s eye opened quickly and he sat straight up looking around for his clothes. “What happened?”
“We fell asleep.” Joel laughed handing Ryan his wet clothes.
Joel drove Ryan back to his dorm with the heat blowing full blast, in an effort to keep from freezing, his jacket draped around Ryan’s shoulders. He focused his attention on the road. Glancing at the blond sitting next to him starring out the window. Joel wondered what Ryan was thinking, he was quite, contemplative. The song, ‘The Night I fell In Love,’ By Luther Vandross was playing softly on the radio; it was as if the JD played it just for them.
“Here we are.” Joel said breaking the silence as he pulled up to Ryan’s dorm.
“Yeah.” Ryan pressed his lips together trying to find the right words. “Joel I had an amazing night.”
“So did I Ryan.”
“I mean really, but can I ask you something?”
“Are you having second thoughts, do you regret what happened?” Joel asked trying not to sound panicked.
“…No” He breathed deeply, “I just wondered if you meant everything you said last night and this morning.”
Joel reached for Ryan’s hand, taking a steady breath, before speaking, gazing intently into Ryan’s insecure eyes. Feeling a pounding in his chest as he started to speak. “Ryan, I meant every…every word. I’m not playing games here, Ryan, I want you with me, beside me, I want us.” Joel stated adamantly, with conviction evident in his voice, leaving no room for doubt.
“I want that too.” Ryan said lowering his head.
“Look at me Ryan.” Joel gently lifted Ryan’s chin bringing them eye level. “Do you?” He asked simply.
“Then okay, don’t second guess us, don’t second guess me and my feelings for you…promise me that.”
“Okay…” Ryan smiled warmly as he watched Joel move forward to kiss him. The kiss sent warm waves though his body, knocking off the chill he was feeling do to the damp clothes.
“Now get inside, before you catch your death of cold.” Joel nodded toward the building.
“Will I see you later?”
“Of course, but tonight. I'm gonna crash now, then hang with the fellas most of the day, but I’ll swing by and get you tonight. We can go to downtown Chicago and see whats happening.”
“Cool…” Ryan smiled.
He attempted to remove Joel’s Jacket, “No…” Joel reached for Ryan’s shoulder, “Keep it.” He smiled sheepishly.
“Okay.” Ryan leaned in giving Joel one last quick kiss before getting out of the Jeep.
Joel watched Ryan disappear into the dorms before driving off, feeling good about them, feeling excited actually. As he drove away, he wondered if he was being realistic thinking that Ryan would be his first and only boyfriend. He smiled to himself, turned up the radio, and made his way home.
“Where the hell have you been Mister, do you know what time it is?” Brye interrogated Ryan as he walked through the door.
Ryan laughed as Brye scooted out of bed making his way over to him, wearing nothing but a pair of soft gray drawstring shorts. Ryan slowly closed the door behind him and sighed.
“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” He asked side stepping his roommate who was looking at him as if he had two heads.
“I could ask you the same thing.” Brye retorted trying to keep a straight face as he crossed his arms over his chest. “And why are you all wet, what the hell happened?” He frowned padding up behind Ryan.
“We got caught in the sprinkler system.” He answered in a matter of fact tone, with a shrug of the shoulder blowing his roommate off. He hung Joel’s jacket on the back of the chair, before peeling out of his wet shirt. Brye stood in the isle blocking Ryan’s way tapping his foot impatiently against the floor.
Ryan turned around coming chest to chest with Brye, “Um...Excuse me.” Ryan stepped back eyeing Brye as he tried to get around him.
“Well?” Brye asked quizzically.
“Well what?” Ryan repeated through an exhausted sigh as he stepped out of his jeans.
“What were you doing till…” Brye peaked over his shoulder to the time. “5:30 in the morning? Ain’t nothing opened at this time of morning, but legs.” He chuckled. Then his eyes widen with the realization of the words that just left his mouth.
Ryan shook his head and sighed reaching for his towel and toiletries. “I’m gonna take a shower, then go to bed.” Ryan said dismissively.
“Not so fast partner…Um…no sit down.” Brye laughed combing his fingers through his thick black hair as he sat down on his bed. He grabbed the pillow and sat it next to him, patting it raising an eyebrow. “Sit.” He insisted.
“What’s the pillow for?” Ryan asked curiously knitting his brows together.
“Well I want you to be comfortable.” Brye nodded with a grin.
“I don’t need a pillow, crazy.” Ryan laughed at his friend. He knew Brye had figured everything out.
“Well how about a hot bath to soak in?” Brye offered, trying not to laugh...
“What?” Ryan asks with incredulity.
“Well, you were with Joel weren’t you?” Brye bounced his eyebrows together suggestively.
“And…” Brye motioned with his arms, bobbing his head, making an obvious gesture.
Ryan sighed as he walked over to the bed; snatching the pillow out of the way before sitting down. He turned to face his roommate.
“Okay Brye, what do you want to know actually?”
“Well, did you or didn’t you?” Brye asked curiously with the click of the tongue.
Ryan pulled the pillow up to his chest, holding it tightly. He chewed on his bottom lip with butterflies still in his stomach.
“HOT DAMN!” Brye exclaimed before Ryan could answer completely. Standing up he slapped Ryan on the back startling him, almost causing him to fall over.
“Owww…” Ryan chuckled with a grimace as he rubbed his shoulder.
“SHIT...You did it! You slut…” Brye shook his finger at Ryan as if to reprimand him. . “Wow... So spill it.” He nodded his head quickly, his eyes widening in anticipation. He pressed his lips together trying to suppress the grin attacking them as he sat back down next to Ryan wrapping his arm around his friends shoulder. He knew that he had resorted to that of a high school girl that had just heard her friend had lost her virginity, but he didn’t care.
“You sure you don’t need the pillow?” He teased.
“No stupid.” Ryan flung it at him knocking his backwards on the bed.
“Ouch….” Brye laughed sitting up rubbing his chest. “Wow, man.” His voice taking on a more somber tone. “So you beat the deadline dude.” He congratulated him. “How do you feel?”
“How do I feel?” That was the question of the day. Ryan scratched behind his ear, thinking about the question as he tried to gauge his emotions. To some, having sex is no big deal but, to him it was the most intimate form of communication two people could share, it was sacred.
It was not about waiting to get married for Ryan as it may have been for others, to Ryan; it was about finding that right someone, that someone who you wanted to share the most cherished… the most precious part of you with. To him, Joel was that person and he had no regrets.
Since the moment they met, he felt this pull, this attraction to him, he couldn’t explain it...it just was.
“Hey,” Brye’s voice pulled Ryan from his thoughtful trance, “I asked you how you feel?”
“Oh…” Ryan smiled, “I feel great, and I don’t need a pillow.” He teased tossing it to Brye.
“You know…” Brye sighed, setting the pillow down on the bed, “I’m happy for you, but why do I feel like I want to kick my brother’s ass right now?”
“I don’t know, maybe you had this secret crush on me and deep down inside you wanted me.” Ryan laughed jokingly.
“That’s definitely not it.” Brye stated convincingly as he nudged Ryan on the shoulder with his own.
“Then I have no Idea.” Ryan chucked whimsically.
“I just feel protective of you.” Brye smiled warmly, tightening his grip around Ryan’s shoulder. “My Ryan is a man now.” He sighed leaning his head against his roommate’s.
“Whatever.” Ryan sighed. “So how is Olivia, you really like her don’t you?”
“Yeah, man she’s amazing, but damn she eats like a horse.”
“Yeah, I noticed that.” Ryan laughed.
“It’s a good thing she offered to pay for the ice cream, hell she got two scoops.”
“You mean you let her pay?” Ryan asked with surprise.
“Hell yes, I was tapped out.” He laughed, then trying to sound serious he asked. “You think I can refinance my student loan?”
“No…you’re so stupid.” Ryan teased as he gathered his things together to take his shower. Brye studied his roommate move around the room, He didn’t seem different, he seemed like the same Ryan…, but somehow different, it was a subtle change, but a change nonetheless.
“I can’t believe you did it.” Brye sighed in amazement, as he shook his head.
“It didn’t happen like that Brye, it wasn’t planned, and that’s what makes it so special. It was like-“
“TMI…TMI, I don’t want details, please.” He huffed teasingly.
“Oh don’t worry, you weren’t getting any.” Ryan called over his shoulder, with a wink as he headed to the shower.
Joel parked the jeep, and pulled the keys out of the ignition. A warm smile form as he reminisced about his time with Ryan. The movies, pool, dancing. He sighed longingly as he placed his fingers to his face, inhaling deeply searching for any lingering scent of Ryan on them. He missed him…missed touching him… holding him, “Get a grip Masterson.” He coached. “But why should I?” He questioned himself. “I like him; He likes me, so…I’m going for it.”
He smiled at the reflection starring back at him from the rearview mirror before getting out of the jeep. He tossed his keys in the air catching them, stepping lightly as he made his way inside.
The halls were empty; quite, everyone was still asleep on this early Saturday morning, most likely, from partying the night before, the life of a college student, they studied hard and played just as hard. He opened the door slowly in effort not to wake his roommate. To his surprise, Jaxson was changing out of his clothes.
“Hey dude.” Jaxson said as he pulled up the pajama bottoms.
“Hey, what’s up?” Joel asked as set his keys down on the desk.
“What the fuck happened to you, man?” He asked scrunching his nose, looking confused.
“We got caught in the sprinkler system.” Joel replied pulling his wet shirt over his head.
“You and Ryan?”
“Yup,” Joel sighed, leaning against the wall, using it for support as he kicked off his shoes.
Jaxson pulled his tee shirt down over his head, “I heard you all went out.”
“Yeah, it was cool.”
“Emmett was telling me about this hustler chick.” He laughed pulling the covers back on the bed. “Said we should enter her in a few tournaments, make some money off her.” He laughed jokingly. “I hear she’s a pool shark.”
“Olivia, yeah she’s a pimp.” Joel laughed grabbing some fresh clothes from his drawer.
“Olivia?” Jaxson asked curiously. “My Olivia?”
“What do you mean your Olivia?” Joel asked as he made his way to his small dresser.
“Well, I’m the one who set her and Brye up.” Jaxson stated proudly. “Glad to here it’s going swell.”
“Hey…by the way,” Joel looked over his shoulder. “When did you see Emmett, I thought he was with Stephanie.”
“He was, but after he finished with her, he met up with Tank and I over the Kappa House.”
“Oh…” Joel nodded with understanding.
“Yeah, man we hooked up with these freaks."
“Oh yeah, “Joel laughed, “I’m not so sure who the freaks are, considering Emmett was just with Stephanie, then hooked up with you?”
“Yeah, well you know how we do it.” He smiled slyly. “Hell, man, I just got in myself.” Jaxson admitted. Then eyed Joel carefully with a curious gaze, “So man, you hit that?” He asked with one eyebrow raised inquisitively, changing gears.
“What…you mean Ryan?”
“Yeah man, Ryan.” Jaxson chuckled as he climbed into bed.
“What?” Joel replied as if he didn’t understand the question.
“Never mind, I got my answer dude.” Jaxson laughed pointing to the hickey on Joel’s chest.
Joel looked down, then back to Jaxson, with reddened cheeks as he ran his fingers over the raised purple bruise.
“Yeah that… you’re slipping, Masterson. Rules of a player, never…ever let them mark you. Those were your rules, remember?” Jaxson reminded him. “What’s up with that?”
“It’s not like that, Ryan is different.” He stated in a thoughtful tone, reflecting on his feelings for Ryan. He turned his back toward Jaxson and heard a deep shriek.
“What the fuck man, have you seen your back?” He asked in shock. Joel looked over his shoulder trying to see. “Wait scratch that.” Jaxson gestured with his hand in the air, “Of course you have not seen it, it’s your back for crying out loud…but damn.” He winced, getting out of bed walking over to Joel to get a closer look.
“Is it that bad?” Joel asked reaching his hand up his back. He walked over to the mirror standing sideways, peering over his shoulder so he get a better look. The reflection showed the image of scars on his upper shoulder blades that could have been caused by fingernails.
“Hell yeah…it’s like that?” Jaxson asked incredulity raising his eyebrow.
“No… no it’s not like that,” Joel defended through an embarrassed chuckle. He sighed running his hand over his short black hair still trying to see.
“You might want to do something about that, you don’t want it to get infected.” Jaxson suggested on half- teasing.
“Shut up.” Joel chuckled shooting his friend a staggered glare.
“I’m just saying.” He stepped back holding his hands up in defense.
“You know, Joel, I like Ryan, I think he’s cool, but school is just getting started. There are still so many freshmen we have yet to experience man.” Jaxson pointed out.
“Nah, I’m cool, I’m digging Ryan. I wanna’ see where this goes.”
“Right…right so you’re cutting up your player’s card, eh? Too bad you’re gay, otherwise I would ask for your little black book.” Jaxson laughed jokingly.
“So you want my sloppy seconds huh?” Joel winked with a sexy grin.
“Hell I’d let ‘em suck my dick.” Jaxson retorted. “Well...All…Except that crazy ass Jace.”
“Ahhh…that’s too bad,” Joel shook his finger at his friend mockingly. “Jace is the best one. Hell, why do you think I put up with him?” Joel laughed throwing his clothes over his shoulder. “I’m off to shower.”
Jaxson shook his head climbing back into bed as he watched Joel leave wondering what was it about Ryan that would make his friend change so drastically, this was always the best part of the year. They had a reputation on campus, he could get any girl he wanted, and Joel, well Joel could have a different guy every night for a week straight if he wanted...“Could it be love….Nah.”
“Ooouch!” Joel winced grabbing the sheets tightly in his fist. His painful outcry caused a hurried commotion under the covers, along with a muffled, “I’m sorry” As he continued to provide oral stimulation to his thick swollen member.
“Ahhh…. It’s okay,” Joel, moaned rolling his eyes back in his head, leaning it back into the pillows. He closed his eyes tightly, feeling as if his body was a run-a-way train of sexual energy, a train that came to a screeching halt as the conductor pulled back. His body objected to the slowing tempo, he knew he was being teased. An agonizing moan escaped his lips. “Not yet.” The muffled voice commanded, pulling off Joel yet again, prolonging his delight.
“Fuck!” Joel protested in a husky voice.
He felt the warmth of his lovers tongue lick the swollen head before slowly…quietly taking it into his mouth, building up speed, quickening the pace applying firm pressure with every stroke. A satisfying grin attacked his mouth, as he felt his imminent orgasm approaching.
He watched the shape of his head under the sheets bobbing up and down, taking all of him into his mouth. He needed to see, this game of illusion was working no longer, he needed to see his beautiful mouth sucking him off.
His breath hitched as he felt the warm hand working in unison with his mouth, covering the swollen tender head, sucking…stroking…licking the shaft. Joel couldn’t take it any longer.
“I…I’m…Um.” He choked out trying to warn him, “I’m gonna…Uhhhh...” Joel fisted the sheets as his body jerked with every uncontrolled thrust of his hips. He felt a warm release starting from the center of his body to the tip of his fingers and toes, filling his mouth once again, with the fruitage of his labor.
He pulled back the covers revealing a sweaty, naughty blond, whose hair was matted to his forehead.
Ryan exhaled deeply trying to catch his breath as he ran his tongue over his bottom lip catching the warm silky cum that spilled down his chin. He used the back of his hand wiping his mouth as he grinned proudly at Joel.
“How was it?” He asked crawling up Joel’s lean body.
“Just as great… as the last time.” Joel blew out a huge breath of air still feeling numb;" Who's trying to kill whom?" he inhaled deeply using one hand to remove Ryan’s wet hair from his eyes while caressing his back and shoulders, with his other.
He and Ryan spent their Saturday night at the Navy Pier near downtown Chicago. Joel picked Ryan up around 7:00pm after hanging out with his boys. Ryan didn’t mind it gave him time to hang out with Brye and most importantly, it gave him time to write in his journal about what had to be the most important event in his life so far.
The pier was crowded with natives and tourist alike, everyone enjoying the fall breeze blowing across Lake Michigan.
They enjoyed dinner at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp House. Joel ordered a Shrimp Po Boy and a pitcher of beer while Ryan got the seafood basket and coke, sneaking sips of Joel’s beer as he kept a watchfully eye out making sure no one was looking.
After they finished dinner, they walked down the pier stopping to take pictures in a photo booth along the way. They took a few pictures, one of them looking thudded out, “mean mugging” the camera holding the peace sign over their chest. Another one was a side view of them kissing while making a silly face at the camera, Joel held up the peace sign behind Ryan’s head unbeknownst to him until he saw the actual picture and one of them just smilingly happily at the camera.
They stopped to watch the band ‘Too White Crew’ play on the Budweiser stage along the seawall. The band was doing a tribute to Hip Hop. Joel hoisted himself up on the cement wall dangling his legs over the side allowing room for Ryan to snuggle between them as they enjoyed the concert.
After the concert, they rode a few rides including the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and the wave swing. They ended the night with the traditional firework display before heading back to school.
Jaxson was on a date tonight and promised Joel he would be staying at Tank and Emmett’s dorm, giving Joel and Ryan some alone time.
Ryan laid his head against Joel’s chest, tracing the planes of it softly with his finger. He could not help but notice the scar on his right side. He curiously, ran his finger over it.
“What happen?” Ryan asked in a hushed tone, not wanting to be intrusive.
“I had appendicitis.” Joel answered as he watched Ryan run his fingers over the scar tenderly.
“Would you think I was crazy if I told you I like it?” Ryan asked admiringly.
Joel laughed slightly as he gazed lovingly at Ryan. “I don’t know.” He answered shyly. No one had ever mentioned the mark before. He knew it was because no one ever had the chance to be so intimate with him. Not in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense. They never really cared about truly getting to know him. Truthfully, he never gave them the time to notice things like that, as he did Ryan. Never had he just cuddled with someone, lying there appreciating the essence of them being together.
“Well I do, it has character.”
“Oh really?” Joel chuckled, running his fingers through Ryan’s soft blond hair.
“Well this little scar almost killed me. I was in the hospital for a week.” He recalled. “We didn’t know what was wrong; I was feeling this dull ache that kept getting worse. I ignored it at first, but after a while I just couldn’t take it.” Joel thought back to that night. “I got up to go tell my dad and just dropped to my knees doubled over in the hall way. The pain was excruciating, I couldn’t breathe I couldn’t speak; I just laid there thinking I was going to die. Brye was the one who found me. “Joel remembered, swallowing the lump formed in his throat thinking back to the pain he was in. “My parents call him a hero. He came out of his room, saw me lying there, and ran to get my father.”
“Wow….I’m glad he found you.” Ryan said as he slowly leaned over gently kissing the scar.
“Yeah, me too.” Joel agreed as he kissed the top of Ryan’s head.
“You know I came to school to get an education, and got you as a bonus.” Ryan avowed as he kissed Joel’s chest.
“Maybe… but I got the best deal, hell I got the hottest guy on campus, right here in my bed.”
“Hey…” Ryan slapped Joel playfully on the chest, “Is that all you want me for?” Ryan asked pretending to be offended.
“Owww…” Joel laughed rubbing his chest, “Of course not. I’m with you because of your brilliant mind, but I can’t deny the fact that you’re gorgeous.”
Ryan smiled shyly at the compliment, “I don’t know about that.”
“I do, now kiss me my gorgeous boyfriend before I get mad.” Joel said teasingly, Ryan leaned in for a kiss more than willing to accommodate Joel’s request. Soft moans filled the room.
~*~*~Later during the week.
"Hey, Joel, wait up!” Jace called out getting Joel's attention as he walked hurriedly down the corridor. Joel stopped at the end of the hall and waited.
"Hey, what's up?" Joel questioned his handsome suitor as he adjusted the strap of his backpack flung over his shoulder.
"Where have you been, I’ve missed you, we need to catch up.” Jace smiled seductively, stepping closer to Joel. He trailed his fingers across Joel's chest; his statement was laced with an underlying message, which Joel knew all too well.
"Um..." Joel stepped back recoiling at his touch. "What did you need, Jace?"
"You know me all too well don't you Joel..."Jace winked with a click of the tongue. He laughed slightly standing on the tips of his toes, and whispered in Joel's ear, "You."
Joel sighed rolling his eyes toward the ceiling, a look of frustration evident on his face.
"Okay...okay, lighten up.” Jace laughed, try to lighten the mood. ”Anyways, I was wondering if I could catch a ride to the dealership, I need to pick up my car."
"Um...No can do. I've got practice in 15 minutes."
"I only need five." Jace countered holding up one hand.
"I... really can't.” Joel replied hesitantly.
"Please?” Jace beseeched. “Its right up the street, you don't even have to wait, the car is ready."
"Well if its right up the street, why don't you just walk?"
"Aw...come on, Joel.” Jace replied with pleading eyes.
Joel sighed scratching the back of his head, processing the request. With a heavy sigh and against his better judgment he conceded, thinking he could use the time to officially break things off with him. "Shit, okay but we need to hurry; besides, I need to talk to you anyway."
"Thank you, I owe you, and I don't mind paying my debts...to you anyway.” Jace licked his lips seductively and smiled.
"Just come on." Joel nodded toward the door allowing Jace to exit first. Jace glanced out across the campus spotting Ryan and Kennedy walking their way. Ryan was engrossed in what he was saying, he didn't notice them walk out of the student hall.
Jace smiled cunningly, placing his hand on Joel's shoulder and whispering something in his ear causing him to laugh aloud getting Kennedy's attention.
*Across the lawn.*
"Hey, isn't that Joel?" Kennedy asked knitting her brows together directing Ryan's attention toward his boyfriend and Jace.
A look of confusion crossed Ryan’s face as he watched them walk in the opposite direction. "Um...yeah, I think so." He answered with slight confusion in his voice.
"What's he doing with him?” She questioned, her voiced laced with venom.
He wasn't sure what to think or what to make of it, if anything and he didn't want to jump to conclusions. After all, it was not as if they were being inappropriate, they were just walking...closely...Jace's hand on Joel's broad shoulder whispering something in his ear, something that made his boyfriend laugh.
Ryan sighed dismissing the feelings of insecurities from his mind. He forced a smile, adjusted the books he was carrying and with a shrug of the shoulder continued his conversation with Kennedy as they walked to the student hall.
Jace was livid.
"How dare Joel just dismiss me like that?" He thought as he walked into the Cantina. He scanned the room through narrowed eyes, trying to find his prey; the blond. He smiled as he spotted Ryan in the line, a tray of food in front of him. He made his way over to him without his notice, slipping in line behind him.
"That will be $6.45 please." The cashier said with a polite smile.
Ryan reached in his pocket and pulled out a ten. "Thank-" Ryan was interrupted by a smooth voice.
"I got it. Add this too, please.” Jace smiled holding up a diet Coke. Ryan eyed him suspiciously.
"Um..., that's okay I have it."
"No, I insist." Jace smiled as he handed the cashier the money. She eyed Ryan with a questioning gaze, and Ryan gave a quick nod.
"Thank you." Ryan picked up his tray and searched out a table.
"No problem." Jace smirked. Ryan nodded before spotting a round table in the back of the room, and walking over to it. He sat his tray down and then pulled out his chair. Ryan stared at his food hungrily, about to dig in, when a shadow was casted over him.
“Is this seat taken?” Jace asked. Ryan looked up at him with a surprised expression.
Jace didn’t wait for his answer and pulled out the chair, plopping down comfortably.
“Go… right ahead….” Ryan mumbled looking down at his tray, suddenly losing his appetite.
“I’m sorry?” Jace asked, feigning confusion as if he didn’t hear what he said. He scooted his chair in.
“Oh, nothing.” Ryan quickly stated.
“Thanks….” Jace said opening his Coke taking a long sip. Ryan watched wondering what he wanted this time. “Ahhh…” Jace gave a satisfying sigh as he sat the bottle on the table.
“So Ryan how’s it going?” He nodded pressing his lips together in a tight line.
“Wait?” Jace acted surprised and confused, “That’s Joel’s letterman’s Jacket isn’t it?” He asked rubbing his finger under his chin raising one brow referring to the garment Ryan was wearing, the jacket that was indeed Joel’s.
“Um…” Ryan looked down running his hand over the raised number 21 on the front. “Yes, why?” He asked suspiciously.
Jace shook his head slowly, biting his bottom lip, “No reason, I’m just surprised at Joel...why I don’t know.” He sighed faking disappointment.
“What do you mean?”
“Well it’s just…” He left the statement hanging hoping Ryan would bite, and sure enough, he did, Jace fought hard to suppress a victorious grin.
“No tell me, if it’s about Joel I want to know.”
“It’s just…Ryan, you don’t know Joel like I do, god knows I wish I didn’t, but…but he’s just.” Jace sighed dramatically, “I don’t want to feel like a fool running behind him, you know what I mean?” Jace forced a sad smile.
“No, I don’t know.” Ryan admitted sitting back in his chair folding his arms across his chest defiantly.
“Okay, it’s like the jacket,” He nodded. “I wore that jacket all last year; it was the closest thing to a ring for me. Then he came and asked for it back, now I see you’re wearing it.”
Ryan looked confused as he remembered the morning that Joel told him to keep it, more importantly the night leading up to it. He sighed as he ran the fabric between his fingers. He let go of it abruptly as if he had been burned.
Jace smiled smugly as he watched the look of uncertainly settle into his opponent.
“Oh…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad, nor do I want any sympathy from you, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to be his…” He fringed thoughtfully, “His boyfriend.” He shook his head.
“Oh Jace, I don’t feel sorry for you.” Ryan said in a wry tone.
“Good.” He smiled, “but I feel sorry for you," He added, "I just wished someone would have told me about Masterson before I got caught up...Ryan." He leaned forward resting his arm on the table, “Joel is a user, trust me I know, hell,” He waved his hand in the air dismissively, “ I was just with him this afternoon, I let him fuck me.” Jace lied, licking the corner of his mouth, using the fact that Ryan saw them together to his advantage.
“What?” Ryan asked numbly.
“Oh…” Jace chuckled placing his hands over his mouth innocently. “I know, I’m terrible, and I know you two have been together, It's just... I'll never say no to him... I can’t.” He eyed Ryan carefully trying to gauge his reaction to his false admission.
“Hum…” Ryan sighed, “and just when was this…exactly?”
“When exactly?” Ryan forced the issue, the tone in his voice slightly elevated.
“Why?” Jace shrugged his shoulders.
“Because you’re saying you had sex with my boyfriend this afternoon,” Ryan stressed the word 'boyfriend', “And I want to know when, because I fucked him this afternoon, let's see." Ryan said thoughtfully, "Between...Um... 2nd and 3rd period, so I just want to know when he had time for you?”
Ryan smiled sarcastically eyeing him with a condescending grin. He stood zipping up his jacket, and leaned forward, resting his hands on the table. He looked at his uneaten lunch, then back to Jace and smiled.
“Thanks for lunch, but I’m not hungry.” He patted Jace on the back insultingly and walked off. Even though Ryan knew he had won that round he still felt defeated and Jace’s word hurt him deeply, but he would not give him the satisfaction of knowing it. He would deal with Joel and this issue later, tonight he and Brye had pressing matters to attend too.
Jace was furious as he watch is worthy opponent dismiss him. “Ryan Smith, I hate to do this, but you leave me no choice.” Jace said under his breath as he watched Ryan exit the building. He looked at Ryan’s uneaten sandwich and sighed as he reached for it taking a bite before tossing back on the tray.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
“Come on, man, it’s no big deal.”
“It is a big deal. A very big deal,”
“Whatever, man, don’t be such a wuss.” Brye hissed.
They snuck across the lawn in the darkness, clad in all black, staying hidden in the darkened shadows casted by the buildings and the trees. They reached the natatorium and looked inside the vertical, rectangular window to make sure no one was around.
“What if it’s locked?” Ryan whispered, trying to keep a tight hold on the rather large can he was carrying.
“It shouldn’t be, Colin said they would unlock it.” Brye assured and reached for the door handle. With ease, he pulled it open, allowing Ryan to slip inside and then he followed. They walked down a long, dimly lit hallway and came face-to-face with a dark purple metal door labeled “Men’s Locker-room.”
Brye easily pulled that door open and once again allowed Ryan inside first. The locker-room was dimly lit as well as they made their way across the tiled floor, through the rows of purple and white lockers. They noticed towels strewn across the benches and a laundry cart in the corner of the room. They finally came to a set of double doors. Brye opened one of them slowly, peaking his head inside to make sure the coast was clear. Once he was sure, he motioned for Ryan to go ahead.
They snuck into the dark room, walking across the tiled floor. The room was dark, and spacious, causing the footsteps and breaths to be echoed off the walls. To one side of the room was a large stand of metal bleachers. In the center of the room was a large, rectangular, in-ground pool, lined to one side with diving boards. The pool lights were still on; giving the room
it is only light.
“Alright,” Brye whispered. “Let me see the container.”
Ryan handed it over to him and Brye sat it on the ground. He pulled a can opener out of his back pocket and knelt down, trying to pry the lid off the container. It opened with a resounding pop! …Echoing off the walls. Inside was vivid blue dye. Brye picked up the container with Ryan’s help and they inched towards the water. They tilted it forward carefully, and watched as the liquid flowed into the pool, blending in with the color of pool walls, making it hard to tell the difference between it and the water.
“We did it.” Brye exclaimed quietly. Suddenly, the room was bright, and they could see everything with perfect clarity.
“Freeze!” shouted a deep, gruff voice. The boys froze in fright, dropping the can onto the floor. “Now, put your hands where I can see them.” The voice commanded. Ryan and Brye did as they were told. “Now, turn around.” They did so slowly and came face-to-face with a cop dressed in a black uniform, his badge glinting in the light, a gun pointed in their direction.
“Freeze!” shouted a deep, gruff voice. The boys froze in fright, dropping the can onto the floor. “Now, put your hands where I can see them.” The voice commanded. Ryan and Brye did as they were told. “Now, turn around.” They did so slowly and came face-to-face with a cop dressed in a black uniform, his badge glinting in the light, a gun pointed in their direction.
“What are you two boys doing in here?” he asked. They didn’t speak. Fear had taken away their ability to. “I asked you a QUESTION!”
“Ah!” Brye jumped, his eyes shooting down to the gun and then back to the officer. “W-w-we were j-just-”
“Just what, huh, boy?” the officer asked menacingly. Ryan shook when he felt someone nudge him from behind, thrusting him forward.
“G-go ahead and tell him,” Brye insisted. Ryan swallowed thickly, sweating bullets.
“You both do realize I’m gonna’ have to take you in, right?” the officer asked. “Are you two students here? And what are you doing with that can of dye? Something suspicious I bet.”
“Officer, listen,” Brye tried to say.
“I’M DOING THE TALKING HERE BOY!” the officer shouted and moved closer to them. He slipped the gun into its holder, but keeping a hand on it, ready to pull it out if needed. Brye eyed him carefully, his knees weakening. “Are you looking me in the eye, boy?” the officer asked lowly, his face so close that Brye could feel the hairs of his mustache.
“N-no, sir.” Brye answered. The officer then got in Ryan’s face.
“And what about you, hmm?” he asked. “You got something to say?” Ryan quickly shook his head, trying not to pass out. The officer stepped back slightly. “I’m gonna’ have to report you to the dean for this one. This means expulsion for you two.” He spat.
Brye and Ryan’s eyes widened, with the fear of being expelled. Brye dropped to his knees.
“Officer, please! This is all a big misunderstanding!” he begged, putting his hands in prayer form. “You see, he talked me into it.” He gestured to Ryan.
“What?!” Ryan exclaimed. “Don’t try to pin this all on me.” Ryan then looked at the officer. “Sir, I can assure you that both of us have just been involved in a huge mix-up, that’s all.” Ryan tried to assure and Brye nodded in agreement. The officer looked between the two of them and guffawed mockingly.
“You two are pathetic.” He spat. “Alright, I’m not gonna’ report ya’.” He said slowly.
“Y-you’re not?” Brye stuttered standing up, his voice sounding hesitant as if his questioning would somehow change the officer’s mind.
“No, I’m not!” The officer yelled. “I ain’t a snitch.” At this, Brye and Ryan looked at each other with confusion. The officer stepped back a little more. “No I ain’t gonna’ report ya’…” he paused. “I’m gonna laugh at ya!” his voice was suddenly young and cheerful. It didn’t have the gruffness it had before. Instead, it was smooth and boyish.
The guys watched as the officer pulled away the mustache from under his nose, revealing a young looking man, who laughed loudly.
Suddenly, tons of laughter rang out from all around the room, and the boys looked around in confusion. Their hearts sped up as they watched Joel, Jaxson, Colin, Tank, and Emmet come out from their hiding places, laughing so hard that they were bending over, clutching their stomachs.
“You should have seen your faces!” Emmett exclaimed. Jaxson walked up next to the fake officer, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
“Good job, Dave!” he said. “Man, you’re good. I was even scared for a moment. I damn near pissed myself.”
“What?!” Ryan and Brye shouted in unison, they stared at each other in amazement, their mouths agape and their eyes wide with shock.
Colin walked out clapping, “Bravo…bravo.” He smiled. “You guys accomplished your assigned task.”
“Oh my god, you scared the shit out of me.” Ryan said while holding his hand over his chest. Still not sure if this was real or not.
“Yeah, what the fuck this was all a joke?” Brye asked bewildered.
“Yepp…”And you my man almost failed.” Colin replied, “What you think fellas, do we still want him?” Colin laughed pointing his finger to Brye.
“Heyyy…” Brye objected.
“Hey my ass, you were about to leave your brother stranded.” Emmett said.
“No…I would never do that.” Brye defended.
“What the fuck would you call it…It was all his fault.” Jaxson laughed mocking him.
“Ryan, you’ve got to believe me, I would never sell you out…not for real.” Brye said full of conviction.
“I believe you.” Ryan smiled.
“And so do we little brother.” Joel walked up placing a reassuring hand
his on Brye and Ryan’s shoulder.
“You knew about this all along?” Ryan questioned, eyeing Joel.
“Uh-oh.” Tank laughed, “Joel, you ain't gettin none, he’s gonna hold out and make you pay for this.” He laughed. Joel rolled his eyes and shook his head before kissing Ryan on the cheek.
“Hey guys we have a party going on in your honor, we need to get going.” Colin said trying to usher everyone out.
“Yeah, before the real security shows up, he’ll be making his rounds in about fifteen minutes.” Dave laughed as he held the door open allowing everyone to exit first.
Joel turned onto Cherry Cove Dr. slowly making his way down to the end of the road to the Delta house where the party was being held in Ryan and Brye's honor.
The street was cluttered with cars steaming a mile long, Joel pulled up to the front of the house that was reserved for invited guest only.
"Wow...." Brye was astonished staring out the window, "All this is for us?"
"Yepp...tonight it is, we had twenty-two pledges this time and the big party for everyone is Saturday after we beat Indiana’s ass. “ Joel laughed as he parked the car.
"Do these people have class tomorrow?" Ryan wondered aloud, noticing the front yard was littered with students, some in small groups, while others were closer to the front porch drinking and dancing to the music coming from inside.
"This is college life babe,” Joel chuckled; he reached over patting Ryan’s knee. “There is a party every night...somewhere, and tonight this party is for you." He smiled pulling the key out of the ignition.
"Ohhhh..." Ryan nodded eyeing the crowd
Brye was the first one out of the car. He shoved his hand in the pocket of his tan cargo shorts giving an approving nod as he combed his fingers through his thick black curly hair, Joel had taken them to their dorm to change of out their black clothing before coming to the party. He stood in awe as he watched a sea of students making their way toward the house, and laughed with excitement when he heard someone off in the distance getting excited as they recognized him.
Inside the jeep, Joel reached for Ryan's hand caressing the top of it with his fingers. "You ready to go?" He asked kindly, he could see that Ryan was a little hesitant about the attention he would be receiving.
"I still can't believe all this is for us." Ryan said shyly, taking a huge breath as he glanced out the window, then back to Joel.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he assured him, "you better get used to it. I mean you got four years of this maybe more…and the best is yet to come.” He took Ryan’s hand into his, bringing it to his lips kissing it gently causing Ryan’s cheeks to redden.
Ryan tapped his fingers on his knee nervously, “Um...is Jace coming?”
“Jace, “ He repeated, his voice laced with confusion, “No… why?”
Ryan sighed, “I just wondered.” He lied, "Well we bet-“ BAM…BAM! Brye knocking on the window startled him.
“Brye!” Joel yelled through laughter, then glanced over to Ryan “Come on” He reached for the door handle, and just before exiting he leaned back over his shoulder giving Ryan a quick kiss on the lips, Ryan moaned kissing him back before following his lead.
“It’s about damn time, the party will be over before we get inside.” Brye laughed pretending to be annoyed as Ryan got out of the jeep.
Ryan looked toward the house, running his fingers through his bangs which fell back in place perfectly before running his sweaty palms down the front of his jeans.
Joel walked around the jeep to where Brye and Ryan were standing, “You guys ready for your official debut as, Brothers.” He extended his hand to Ryan’s who locked their fingers together as he led them to the house.
Cheers and whistles could be heard amongst the crowd of supporters, most of them outside were not members nor invited to the private party but to them anywhere there was good music and a party they would be there. Joel walked ahead guiding Ryan and Brye through to crowded sidewalk leading to the front porch.
“Hey Joel man….ready for the game against IU?” A voice called out from the crowd.
“Hell yeah, we’re gonna kick their ass.” Joel chuckled still holding Ryan’s hand tightly.
On the front porch stood two huge dudes staffing the door. They stood about six feet two and the size of linebackers. They were engaging in a deep conversation; each with a can of beer in their hand.
“Oh, hey man.” The bigger one of the two greeted with a nod.
“What’s up Craig?” Joel asked grabbing his hand. “Mark?” He patted the other guy on the shoulder.
“You got the best hand dude.” He answered in a smooth tone.
"As a matter of fact I do," Joel said fondly. Mark smiled giving Joel an approving nod knowing he was referring to the blond standing next to him.
“Sooo… these are the newest members of DU huh?” He eyed Ryan and Brye approvingly with a smug grin.
“Yepp.” Joel glanced from Brye to Ryan proudly. “This is them.”
“Hell man.” Craig chuckled into his fist before taking a swig of beer, “It’s on tomorrow.”
“I know right.” Mark agreed, “I can’t wait to see the "little blue people.” He used air quotes laughing hysterically. Joel nudged Brye’s shoulder laughing along, while Ryan pressed his lips together feeling slightly embarrassed. “Hey dude, it’s all good.” Mark noticed Ryan's disposition, “It’s Rush week, they’ll never find out it was you who put the dye in the pool, and if they do…we got your back.” He smiled, “Now get inside there’s a party going on, and you two are the guest of honor.” He demanded as he opened the door ushering them inside.
The energy was high, the music loud, with the bass bouncing off the walls. The dance floor, filled to capacity, drinks in hands waving in the air careful not to spill any while dancing to R. Kelly’s ‘Home Alone,’ featuring Keith Murray.
Joel placed his hand on Ryan’s back nudging him forward. Brye bobbed his head to the beat as he watched the guys trying to keep up while the girls out danced them.
“Heyyy….” Tank yelled over his shoulder motioning them to the dance floor, while bumping and grinding with Tonya. Tonya was one of many that Tank hooked up with from time to time, they had an understanding, she knew she was not the only one...and so did he.
Tonya’s skin was smooth as milk chocolate, and her professionally weaved 'Yaki' hair, that she wore down the middle of her back, was swinging from side to side as she swiveled her hips and rolled her shoulders dancing seductively. She wore a tight fitted yellow mini dress that rose up around her hips, as Tank ran his hand up and down her thigh, sexing her on the dance floor.
“Wanna dance?” Joel spoke into Ryan’s ear over the music.
“Maybe later.” He shrugged his shoulder before shoving his hands in the pocket of his jeans.
Joel raised an eyebrow questioningly, “Okaay how about something to drink then?” Joel could feel something was off with Ryan, but could not put his finger on it, unless he was upset that Joel was in on the prank. Joel turned to ask Brye if he was going to join them, but when he turned around Brye was already on the dance floor.
“Well he didn’t waste any time.” Ryan laughed. He hooked his finger in the belt loop of Joel’s jeans keeping up with him as they made their way to where the food and drinks were being served.
Ryan let out a terrified gasp as they passed the large plasma screen television, when he recognized his face.
“Oh My God!” He shrieked placing his hand over his mouth. He poked Joel in the back with his finger getting his attention.
“What!?” Joel called over his shoulder. Ryan couldn’t speak he was still in shock, he just pointed to the television.
Joel gave a hearty laugh, stopping to watch his boyfriend and brother. Jaxson used a high quality camcorder and filmed the whole thing.
Ryan watched with a horrified expression on his face, “I can’t believe this.” The words floated from his mouth.
Joel wrapped his arm around Ryan’s waist pulling him close, “It’s okay, Ryan. This is a part of it, you guys did great. You’re amongst family now.”
“But I thought he said no one would find out it was us, how could they not?” He nodded toward the television.
Joel laughed, “Don’t worry, the only ones invited inside the party are your fraternity brothers and their girls, trust me no one in here would say anything, they’re all on your side. We all did some crazy shit that could have gotten us expelled, but here we are.” He glanced around the room, “Hell they don’t care.” He said with a shrug of the shoulder.
Ryan sighed burying his face in Joel’s chest. “Hey…” Joel lifted his chin bringing them eye to eye, “relax, it’s all good….I promise. “Let’s go get something to drink.”
“Okay…” Ryan smiled looking at his boyfriend. Joel was perfect, maybe too perfect if he listened to Jace. Tonight was about having fun, he and Brye made it… they were now Delta Upsilon men. He knew he needed to lighten up and not let his conversation with Jace ruin his and Joel’s evening, but it was hard, that nagging voice inside his head would not go away. He promised he would not second guess Joel,...second guess them, so why was he?
Joel smiled warmly over his shoulder, “You okay?” His eyes filled with care and sincerity.
“Yeah. Can I have a hug?” Ryan asked shyly with pleading eyes and a slight tilt of the head.
Joel smiled pulling Ryan into his arms holding him tightly as if his life depended on it, inhaling deeply Ryan’s natural scent allowing it to fill his lungs as oxygen would.
“Hey you two.” The cheery voice called from behind. Ryan pulled from Joel's embrace looking over his shoulder to see who was speaking to them and was pleasantly surprised to find Olivia standing there.
"Oh Hey Olivia."
"Olivia…what’s up girl?" Joel turned to greet her as well. "You're looking good." He noted giving her the once over.
She had her hair pulled up in an up-do with cute ringlets cascading down framing her face perfectly. She was dressed very trendy wearing a Shawl styled one sleeved turquoise tie-dye blouse that flowed past her hips and pair of black crop side-zip leggings.
"Brye doesn't know you're here does he?" Ryan asked pointing behind him.
"No not yet." She giggled, "I thought I would grab a bit to eat first" She replied holding up her plate that held a smorgasbord of food.
Joel's eyes widen with shock, "Damn girl did you leave us any?" He laughed.
"Joel... you're so silly." Olivia blushed as she popped a meatball into her mouth.
"Poor Brye." Ryan sighed.
"I'm sorry." She leaned in, "I didn't hear you."
"Oh...I said I want to try." Ryan laughed reaching for a stalk of celery.
"Nice save." Joel whispered with a chuckle. Ryan grinned up at him proudly.
"Oh...congratulations Ryan, I watched the video." She laughed, "I'm gonna have to talk to Brye, he was about to sell you down the river...that boy."
"I know right." He laughed.
"Wait...” She stated with surprise as she stepped back looking over Ryan's shoulder, her brows knitted together, "Who is that?"
Ryan and Joel looked behind them to see Brye getting freaked by some random girl, who had her face all in crotch. "Hold up." Olivia snarled handing her plate to Joel before heading off in a huff to the dance floor.
"Ooooo..." Joel chuckled into his fist. Ryan nodded with excitement before taking a hot wing off the plate turning to see Olivia in action.
Brye was all into the dance, his hands draped around her waist while singing the lyrics to 'Rock That Body,' by the Black Eyed Peas, that was now blasting through the speakers.
Olivia stepped behind the young lady and tapped her on the shoulder as she cleared her throat, “Ahem…Um... excuse, me sweetie, this is our song." She smiled coyly, placing her hand on her hip.
"Heyyy...Olivia!" Brye exclaimed with excitement. He dropped his hands from around the young lady's waist practically pushing her out of the way grabbing Olivia giving her a big hug.
"What are you doing here?" He yelled over the music, leaning back placing both hands on her shoulders while still moving to the beat.
"Jaxson invited me." She grinned, while swaying her hips. They were so into each other they completely forgot about the young woman standing there, she placed her hand on her hip, and rolled her eyes storming off "Bitch" she said under her breath.
Brye and Olivia laughed, shrugging their shoulders and continued dancing. "I'm glad you're here."
"Are you kidding, I wouldn't miss it...my man is a Delta now." She smiled biting on her lower lip fully aware of her admission.
The party was in full force. Soon everyone was on the dance floor doing line dances to the Cupid Shuffle, Cha Cha Slide, and the Electric Slide. Everyone including Ryan and Joel were dancing.
Ryan danced next to Olivia and Brye so she could help him with the turns, slides and kicks. Laughter and cheers could be head outside along with the music. There was line dancing on the front lawn as well. Jaxson and Joel messed up on purpose, being silly and just having fun, turning to the left when the song told them to turn to the right, throwing the person in front and behind them off.
"Owww...." Jaxson ducked his head laughing after receiving a slap on the back of it from a girl dancing behind him, causing Joel to laugh aloud.
The DJ slowed down the music playing Jaheim's ‘Never’, the song fit Joel and Ryan's situation perfectly. The break gave everyone a chance to catch their breath, grab something cool to drink, or just cuddle with their date slow dancing; Joel and Ryan choose the latter.
Joel held Ryan tightly in his arms, tenderly caressing his back as they swayed together. Their bodies fit perfectly, feeling so good against each other. Joel glanced over to his little brother who was whispering something in Olivia's ear as he held her close, causing her to blush as they danced.
The DJ played 'Play Another Slow Jam,' by Monica and Usher bringing more couples to the dance floor, including Tank, Emmett, Jaxson and Colin, everyone grooving to the smooth sounds followed by another classic, 'You and I, by Obrien.
He picked up the tempo with 'Get Low' by Lil Jon and the Yeng Yang twins, followed by Juvenile’s Back That Thang Up,” couples were twerking on the dance floor, Olivia and Brye included. Joel was behind Ryan, cradling him between his arms, grinding against his ass.
Tank was dancing beside them with some random chick reciting the words to the song, “Call me big daddy when you back that thang up…” He laughed as he swatted her on the ass.
The next song to play was O.P.P By Naughty by Nature. Joel looked at his cell phone glancing at the time, and pulled Ryan off the dance floor. Olivia and Brye were still dancing, having a great time together.
Joel and Ryan sat in the corner, Ryan sitting on Joel’s lap feeding him from the plate of food they were sharing. Tonight was great; everyone was having a good time, plenty of good food and drinks. Ryan looked out on to the dance floor at Brye, he could tell his friend was happy and the fact that Olivia was here to share this night with him was momentous.
Ryan looked lovingly into Joel’s eyes as he fed him, wondering why he had any doubts about how Joel felt about him. He was loving, attentive and made Ryan feel like he was the most important person in his world…just like Jace said he would. Ryan sighed trying to dismiss the thought.
“Hey guys the party is out there, not here in this corner.” Tank laughed, “Save the cuddling for the dorm.”
“Hey Tank.” Joel waved as Ryan was placing a cube of cheese in his mouth.
“Man look at all these fine ass females up in here…shit I don’t know which one I want to take home.” He laughed rubbing his hands together briskly as he glanced around the room.
“What about Tonya?” Joel asked as he chewed his food, Ryan used his finger to wipe the crumbs from his boyfriend’s mouth.
“Nah, not tonight…I’ve had that one.” He pointed out, “And that one…she’s pretty good too.” He laughed. “Hey…who is that?” He said eyeing the young woman, he had never seen before.
“I don’t know?” Joel leaned forward looking around Ryan trying to get a better view. “I don’t think I’ve seen her around, but she’s cute.” He added.
“Hell yeah…I’ll be back.” Tank laughed walking away. Ryan smiled laying his head against Joel’s chest getting lost in the feel of him.
Olivia and Brye had not left the dance floor, since their first dance. They loved being together; just kids having fun. Brye couldn't get enough of her. They danced to Lloyd’s‘Girls Around the World, Featuring lil Wayne,’ until Tank grabbed Brye by the neck pulling him off the dance floor.
"Come on lil Bro, time for a drink."
"Hey!" Olivia objected placing her hands on her hips.
"Chill lil momma, you'll thank us later, we're gonna make a man out of your man." He winked forcing Brye, who put up a struggle off the dance floor, to the other room. He was surprised to see Ryan already there; they shared a wary glance unsure of their fate.
"Hey..." He jerked away rubbing the back of his neck as Tank pushed him forward.
"Okay men." Colin looked to Jaxson, Emmett, Tank, Joel and the rest of the Delta men, as he addressed Ryan and Brye.
“You have been selected by your peers, based on the integrity and the honor you have shown.”
Brye and Ryan smiled at each other as listened to the words of praise being spoken about them. Ryan glanced over to Joel who winked at him before crossing his arms over his chest , smiling proudly while listening to Colin.
“We don’t take our mission lightly.” He paused looking around the room. “These are your brothers, in every sense of the word, from this day forward, for the rest of your lives. You will uphold the oath that you will pledge here tonight and formally on Saturday at the swearing in where you will receive your badges of merit. Tonight was held in your honor, because the men standing here deemed you worthy… not to mention we needed a reason to party.” He smiled devilishly.
He stepped back, allowing a tray of drinks to be passed around. There were several small glasses on the silver tray and two tall ones filled to the top. Each member took one of the smaller glasses leaving the two tall ones for Ryan and Brye.
Ryan glanced over to Brye cautiously before reaching for his glass. Brye smiled nervously before taking his. He swallowed hard clearing his throat.
Emmett stepped forward locking eyes with Ryan then Brye. “Brye Masterson and Ryan Smith, I’m deeply honored to call you my brothers.” He held up his glass.
“Here…here.” Everyone agreed downing his shot.
“Here goes nothing.” Brye chuckled turning up his glass. Ryan held his breath and followed suit.
The burning in their throats and the warming sensation in their bodies caused both Ryan and Brye to double over coughing uncontrollably, while the applause and whistling erupted around them.
“What the Fuck was in that?” Brye managed to choke out, while coughing into his fist. Ryan nodded trying to catch his breath, while leaning against the counter his eyes burning, filling with tears.
“It’s what men are made of.” Jaxson laughed. “Joel and I did it. Hell, we all did it.” He acknowledged patting Joel on the shoulder.
“Yepp…” Joel agreed.
"Heyyy…” Brye laughed, feeling no pain as he heard Jamie Foxx’s ‘Blame it’ blasting through the speakers. “Hell that’s my jam….” He started dancing, “Are we done here?” He questioned popping his fingers feeling a nice smooth buzz. “Because I’ve got a fine ass babe waiting for me.” He winked.
“Then by all means, go get your woman…” Someone laughed.
Brye threw up the peace sign and headed back to the dance floor swaying slightly. Ryan watched him grab Olivia pulling her along with him.
Joel walked over to Ryan placing his hand on the lower part of his back. “You okay?” He asked.
Ryan blew out a huge breath of air, his eyes still watery, “yeah…” He sighed, I just need some air.”
“Okay let’s go.” Joel nodded toward the door, ushering Ryan to go first.
“Hey Joel I need a dance partner.” Shuree laughed. Shuree was one of Joel’s classmates and a member of his sister fraternity.
“I’m sorry I was just heading out.”
“Awww….” She pouted.
“No…go ahead, I’ll be fine.” Ryan smiled at Shuree.
“Thanks bro; your boyfriend is an amazing dancer… for a white boy.” She giggled pulling Joel toward the dance floor. Joel smiled sadly as he was being pulled away.
Ryan grabbed a beer before heading outside.
The sound of loud music mixed with, voices and laughter of the partygoers inside startled Ryan, pulling him from his thoughts when the sliding glass door opened and closed slowly.
“Hey…there you are.” The familiar voice said as he stepped out on the patio. “What are you doing still out here?” Ryan glanced up and smiled into those alluring blue eyes.
“Oh hey Joel.” He sighed before taking a sip of his Samuel Adams. He swallowed hard as he scooted over allowing room for Joel to sit down. The tensing of his body as Joel placed his arm around his shoulders didn’t go unnoticed.
“Ryan, what's wrong?” Joel asked with concern as he lowered his head trying to make eye contact with him. He indeed noticed Ryan’s unresponsiveness to his touch.
“Nothing.” Ryan lied, “Just tired I guess.”
Joel smiled sadly and took a deep breath, “Okay…so are you mad at me about the prank.” He asked pressing his lips together tightly before biting on the lower one.
“No…no Joel, that was fine…funny actually.” Ryan chuckled softly. “We looked ridiculous didn’t we?” He laughed shaking his head before he took another sip.
Joel chuckled into his fist, “Yeah,” he smiled.
Their laughter soon faded to an uncomfortable silence. Ryan focused his attention on the half-empty bottle of beer in his hand and Joel’s attention was on Ryan.
“Hey?” He spoke softly nudging Ryan’s shoulder with his own.
Ryan gazed thoughtfully into Joel’s eyes before breaking the stare abruptly, while tightly squeezing the back of his neck. He wanted to tell him what was wrong, what was bothering him, but he didn’t want to sound untrusting, or like the jealous boyfriend. He blew out a huge breath of air, relaxing his shoulders a bit, as he felt the firm strong hand replaced his own, massaging and caressing the tightness in his neck.
“Baby, what’s the matter?”
Ryan inhaled deeply and whispered faintly, “I saw you with him.”
“What?” Joel leaned closer placing his hand to his ear. “You what?”
A long drawn out sigh escaped Ryan’s lips, “I said I saw you with Jace today.”
“Is that that want this is about?” Joel asked, “I knew something was bothering you baby, just talk to me.” Joel pleaded, “I gave him a ride. His car was in the shop and I dropped him off.” Joel stated matter of factly. “I didn’t see you, where were you?”
“I was coming to the student hall with Kennedy before swim practice and I saw you two. Joel, I don’t like him.” Ryan confessed closing his eyes tightly waiting to be scolded for his confession.
“I understand, Ryan, but there’s nothing going on with Jace and me, not anymore.”
“That’s not what he said-“
“I don’t care what he said, wait…when did you see him?” Joel asked puzzled knitting his brows together.
“This afternoon in the cantina.”
“And what did he say exactly?” Joel gave a frustrated sigh, then pinched the bridge of his nose. “Um…never mind, knowing Jace, I’m sure I don’t want to know.”
“But I want to tell you.” He insisted. “You said talk to you.”
“He said you two are still…you know sleeping together."
“WHAT!?” Joel interrupted before he could finish.
He stood up placing his hands on his hips, shaking his head in disbelief. His outburst; now a few octaves higher, was unexpected even to him, and the anger in his tone was directed at Jace not Ryan.
“Joel, I’m sorry.” Ryan stood walking cautiously toward his boyfriend.
“What are you sorry about?” Joel frowned. “I’m the one who should be sorry, not you.”
“You can’t control what he does.” Ryan pointed out placing a reassuring hand on Joel’s shoulder, realizing he was not just talking to Joel at this point.
“I Know I... I don’t want him fuckin with you. The only reason I gave him a ride was to tell him about us and that I couldn’t see him anymore.”
Ryan’s eyes widen with surprise, “Really?” He smiled softly.
“Really.” Joel wrapped his arm around Ryan’s waist pulling him into his embrace. “I want to be with you, Ryan, He acted like he understood, but I guess he didn’t."
“I guess not. He even commented on your Jacket.”
“I’m not sure I want to hear this, but go ahead.” Joel sighed.
“He said you only asked him to give back, so you could give it to me, and that he was your boyfriend when you gave it to him.”
“Shit…” Joel combed his fingers through his short crop of hair clearly frustrated. “First off, Jace was never my boyfriend…Ever.” He stated adamantly. “Secondly, I never gave him my jacket, We were all hanging out one night, and he said he was cold. So he asked if he could borrow it. Hell, it took me a week to get it back,” Joel recalled. “And Ryan.” Joel looked intently into Ryan’s eyes and stated passionately. “You are the first person I’ve ever wanted to try being in a relationship with. The first person I have ever wanted to be with exclusively.”
Ryan nodded, “I believe you…It’s just-“.
“Do you… I mean do you really believe me?” Joel’s voice was hopeful.
“Yes.” Ryan’s eyes said everything, there was trust and sincerity in them when he looked at Joel.
“It’s important that you do. I know what people say about me, and Ryan, a lot of it is true, but that is my past. And I never used anyone, or lied to anyone about my feelings. I don’t play with those, to some people I may come across as being cold and callous, but that’s just the way I am. I never want to give anyone the wrong idea or false hope, what you see is what you get with me.”
“Cold and callus are not words I would ever use to describe you. I really didn’t know what to make of you when we first met, besides the fact I thought you were hot.” He teased, “but cold and callous, never.” Ryan grinned.
Joel smiled, “So are you sure you want to do this with me, take a chance on me...on us? Because, like I said I want you, and when I make it to the Pros, we might have to deal with some crazy fans. You know how people can be.”
“I can handle them, as long as I know, I’m the only one… and you come home to me every night…well... except when you’re on the road.” He added jokingly.
“Then you can travel with me. If you are going to be writing, all you need is your trusty laptop, a nice voice recorder, and you’re good.” Joel said, before breaking out in laughter.
“What…what’s so funny?” Ryan asked laughing along.
“See…Here I am making plans for my future with you. I have never done that before.” He continued to laugh. “That’s scary.”
“Not to me, I can see myself with you for a long…long time.”
Joel chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Me too.” The words floated softly of his lips as he leaned forward to gently kiss Ryan, holding him tightly in his embrace, his fingers getting tangled in his soft blond hair. The taste of his mouth…so sweet, caused a deep-throated, hungry moan to escape as he kissed him fervently. He closed his eyes getting lost in the moment…their moment, could this be what love felt like? Maybe…
The sounds of the birds chirping along with voices off in the distance caused Ryan to stir waking him from his deep slumber.
He yawned, the taste of liquor and sleep laced his tongue. He pressed his head deeper into his pillow slowing combing his fingers through his hair; his attempt to reposition his body was met with resistance.
A warm smile formed on his lips when he noticed Joel’s body draped on his own. He inhaled deeply, running the tips of his fingers through the waves of curls that lay so neatly against his head.
Ryan gasped quietly noticing movement in Brye’s bed. Panic setting in, he tried to sit up, then slowly breathed a sigh of relief when he realized he and Joel were completely dressed aside from their shoes they were still wearing the clothes they had on last night.
His abrupt movement woke Joel. He stretched through a sleep-laden yawn and sighed, his eyes a brilliant blue smiled at Ryan.
“Good morning baby.”
“Good morning.” Ryan whispered then pointed to the bed across from them.
“Oh…” Joel chuckled looking at Brye and Olivia sleeping soundly. “What time is it?” He asked before kissing Ryan on the shoulder.
“Um…It’s.” Ryan squinted trying to see the clock on the desk from where he was laying. “It…its 8:15am!” He said in a panic pushing Joel off him. “I’ve got to get going, class started fifteen minutes ago.
“Hey…hey, where’s the fire?’ Brye asked sitting up rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“The fire?” Ryan questioned as he jumped out of bed. “It’s called Algebra.” He answered as he looked through his top draw frantically pulling out a tee shirt and underwear.
“Hey calm down, it’s a ninety minute class, you being late is not that big of a deal.” Joel laughed leaning up resting on his elbows as he watched his panic-stricken boyfriend.
“Good morning guys.” Olivia yawned and greeted with a smile. She was wearing one of Brye’s white sleeveless shirts that swallowed her petite body and a pair of his boxers over her own panties.
“Morning Olive.” Brye smiled.
“Morning Olivia.” Joel laughed as he watched Ryan run around the room as if there was a real fire.
“What time is it?” She asked as she pulled the scrunchie from her hair, allowing her long curly mane to fall caressing her shoulders.
“It’s 8:15…”Joel and Brye, answered in unison.
“Correction its 8:18.” Ryan corrected them before heading to the bathroom.
They all shared a laugh at Ryan’s expense.
“This is college Ryan; you’re not going to get detention if you’re late or sent to the principal’s office.” Olivia giggled getting out of bed. “Hum…where did I put my bag?” She asked absent mindedly as she glanced around the room. “Ah, there it is.”
Brye sat at the edge of the bed scratching his head, “Yeah man, it’s not like elementary school, just slide in there and catch the rest of the class, hell you’re paying for this; they don’t care if you show up or not.”
“Well…they do care,” Joel glared at his brother, then soften his expression when he looked back at Ryan, “But just don’t make a habit of it. Did you have a test this morning?” Joel asked with concern.
“Ah, well you’re good.”
“Well with that being established, do you mind if I use the ladies room first?”
“The ladies room is down the hall, the men’s room is in here.” Brye teased.
Olivia turned to Joel, “Has he always been a dork?” She laughed before turning to Ryan again, “So…” she eyed him.
“Oh…yeah, you do have to drive home, so you go ahead.”
“Thank you, you’re such a gentleman.” She padded daintily into the restroom.
Brye watched her every step mesmerized by her beauty. He wanted to know everything about her. She seemed perfect…she was smart, funny, beautiful, and what he learned last night was that she was cool too, Brye suggested she spend the night to keep from being on the road so late, and she readily accepted.
“Come here.” Joel said with a click of the tongue.
Ryan walked over setting on the bed, “What’s up?”
“Don’t I get a kiss good morning?” Joel asked caressing Ryan’s back.
“No…I have morning breath.” He shrieked pulling back.
“And…” Joel laughed, “So do I, just lips no tongue.” He suggested.
“I don’t know bro, his breath is so hot in the mornings we don’t need to go to the cantina, we can cook eggs right here.” Byre laughed, laughing even harder when Ryan gave him the finger.
Joel smiled, “Give me that tongue.” He whispered in a sexy tone in Ryan’s ear, eyeing Brye.
“No…” Ryan covered his mouth with his hand, shaking his head defiantly.
“Give it…” Joel tried to pull his hand down. Soon what started out as a simple request turned into a spectator event. Ryan and Joel were now wrestling on the bed when Olivia walked out of the restroom.
“Hey…hey, “What’s going on here? She laughed
“Joel is trying to kiss Ryan.”
“Wow.” She giggled. “Good luck with that.”
Grunts and labored breathing came from both guys as theystruggled for dominance one trying to overpower the other.
“Walk me out?” Olivia asked still watching Ryan and Joel wrestling.
“Yepp…” Brye answered as he zipped up his jeans. “Let’s grab a coffee before you head out.”
“Cool, um…see yea around guys.” She waved. Muffled good-byes were heard through the heavy grunts and labored breathing.
Brye opened the door motioning for her to exit first. He looked back over his shoulder laughing as he closed the door behind him.
After struggling, Joel finally pinned Ryan down on the bed. “Hah...” He laughed.
“Awww…thanks, how’d you know?” Olivia smiled adoringly as Brye handed her a steaming cup of coffee and a bagel loaded with cream cheese.
“Um…I just figured you would be hungry.” He smirked. “Sugar, extra cream, and extra cream cheese on the bagel there.” He laughed sitting down across from her.
“Perfect.” She carefully took a sip of her coffee before taking a bite of the bagel. “Want some?” She offered holding up the pastry.
"You know I really had fun...." They said in unison.
"You go...." They repeated again, causing them to burst out in laughter.
Olivia smiled, "Okay stop." She held up her hands. "You go.” She insisted.
"Okay, wow now that I have the floor I forgot what I was going to say." Brye joked. "No I wanted to say thank you." He smiled.
"You're welcome. Olivia nodded with a smile. She carefully took a sip of coffee eyeing Brye carefully before speaking. "I like you." She admitted softly leaving the statement hanging for a second.
"I think you're funny, smart and drop dead gorgeous."
Brye leaned back his eyes widen with shock. "Really?" He asked withincredulity.
"Yes...really. I was telling my girlfriends...which you have to met by the way, how adorable you are."
"Yes...really." She giggled as she played with her hair nervously.
"It's just I like you too...really."
"Then it's perfect."
"Yeah...I guess...I just." He ran his hand through is hair. "This is not how I thought this would be."
"What do mean." Olivia questioned. She sat her coffee down on the table, and then crossed her arms in front of her waiting for Brye's reply.
Brye thought back to his and Ryan's pact to lose their virginity before Winter Break and laughed.
"What's so funny?" Olivia asked taking a bite of her bagel.
Brye smiled thinking how different everything turned out. Ryan lost his virginity to his brother, but it was more than that, they were together now a couple with real feelings real emotions, Olivia said she would lose her virginity to her husband and he knew she meant it, besides it was just a silly pact anyway.
“Um...Would you like to go steady with me?" He blunted out.
"Huh?" Olivia's eye registered shock.
"Well...I was... Um think-"
"Yes Brye, I would love to go "steady" with you." She smiled using air quotes on the word steady.
"You would?" Brye asked dumfounded.
"Yeah..."she nodded, "...But do people use the term steady anymore?"
"I don't know, I didn't know what other way to say it." Byre laughed shrugging his shoulders.
"You are too cute." Olivia said resting her head in her hand looking dreamily at Brye. "Want to make it official?" She asked wiggling her eyebrows together suggestively.
"Hell yeah, but..." Brye stopped scratching behind his ear in confusion. "I thought you said you were...you know." He gestured hoping she got the point.
"No silly..." She laughed hysterically. "No...” She slapped his hand. "I mean a kiss."
"Oh...oh, of course I knew that." He sighed embarrassingly.
Olivia pushed the coffee and bagel aside and leaned toward Brye who did the same. They moved in closer as if being pulled by magnets, their eyes closed, their lips puckered. Brye breathed a heavy sigh as the lips met, touching ever so gently. Both pulled away quickly as if they had touched something hot, then slowly... yet cautiously their lips met again.
Without breaking for air, Brye reached fumbling for Olivia's hand pulling her to her feet while guiding her around the table until the bodies were touching. The faintest moan could be heard between as he caressed her back with one hand while enjoying the silky feel of hair between his fingers as he pulled her deeper into the kiss with the other.
He gently ran his tongue over her lips stopping at the entrance. Her lips slowly parted welcoming him in. Their kiss was sweet like mocha laced with passion. The entire world around them faded to a collage of shadows and warm colors. Claps and whistles from the patrons brought them from the haze.
"Wow..." Olivia panted breathlessly resting her head against his. His breathing, labored as he caressed her back and shoulders. His only response was a quick nod of the head. It wasn't until their breathing stabilized somewhat that they realized their display of affection was... public. Brye grabbed Olivia by the hand dragging her out of the cantina, their faces red with embarrassment.
~*~*~ Saturday Morning~*~*~
"Are you sure this is okay?"
"Shhh... I won't tell if you won't" Joel laughed softly as he helped Ryan straddle him. He held him tightly by the waist carefully lowering him down onto him. “Its okay, besides you'll be doing all the work, I'll just lay back and let you do me." He teased. "It's therapeutic actually." He nodded giving Ryan a sexy wink.
It was Saturday Morning and the Wildcats had a big game against Indiana University this afternoon. Ryan had been told by his friend Kennedy that the guys on the football were restricted from sex before a game and here he and Joel going against the coach’s wishes.
"Oh really, therapeutic eh?" Ryan laughed staring into Joel's hypnotizing blue eyes.
Ryan smiled shyly combing his fingers through his hair nervously, trying to relax as Joel slowly entered him. Joel prepared him but, he was still new at this and he wanted it to be as good for Joel as it was for him.
Their bodies melted together as Joel moved slow, deep, and steady, staring deeply into Ryan’s eyes, blue ones captivating brown. He caressed Ryan’s lower back soothingly, allowing Ryan's body to adjuste
dto him. Ryan leaned forward on his arms resting his hands on Joel chest sucking tenderly on his lips before gently pulling him into a deep passionate kiss, enjoying the sensational feeling of his lover inside him as he rocked back and forth. It felt good, almost too good as he bore down forcing him to go deeper. His body was on fire and every thrust fueled the flame within him even more as Joel lifted his hips to met Ryan's sealing their bodies together.
The feeling... so intense it caused a slight whimper to escape Ryan's mouth followed by an enticing moan.
"You okay?” Joel asked his voice dark and heavy. He sat up, pulling Ryan into his embrace, wrapping his arms around Ryan's waist hugging him tightly nibbling on the tender skin above his shoulder,
"Um-hum...” Ryan moaned tilting his head back allowing Joel access, loving the feel of his tongue against his skin "Mmmm...” He laced his fingers behind Joel’s neck, rocking slowly raising up just enough to tease his eager lover, before sliding down the firm shaft burying him inside once again, seducing Joel's throbbing member, each thrust tapped the core setting off an explosion within him. He lowered his head to met Joel's, his eyes deep with lust as he cradled his face in the palms of his hands, bringing their lips together kissing him urgently once more.
The feel of Joel's warm mouth against his own, along with the skillful maneuvering of his firm hand wrapped around Ryan’s erection, stroking him from the tip of his smooth swollen head down to the base sending him into a frenzy, his body overheating. Ryan’s breathing became shallow and sporadic; his body weakened, losing control of all his senses as warm cum erupted covering Joel's hand… spilling between them.
The visuals playing out before him, and the look of euphoria in Ryan's lusty brown eyes brought Joel’s orgasmic release. He muffled his moans by burying his face between Ryan’s neck and shoulder holding on to him as if his life depended on it. Each uncontrolled, forceful release felt so good it hurt.
“Ohhhh….” He sighed faintly struggling for air, enjoying the feeling over taking him, the feeling only Ryan provided. At that moment, Ryan owned him, mind, body, and soul, and he didn’t even realize it… didn’t realize the power he had over him.
Joel lay back on the bed slowly, feeling breathless, he let out a huge breath of air that he struggled to inhale, wiping the sweat from his brow, his body lay limp, drained of life as Ryan carefully lifted off him.
“You okay?” Ryan whispered laying his head on Joel’s chest, tracing his fingertips over his defined chest muscles.
“Um-hum.” Joel closed his eyes slowly. “But I don’t think I can play today.” He said covering is face with his arm, peeking at Ryan.
“WHAT!?” Ryan sat up franticly. “But I thought…”
Joel laughed, “I’m only teasing. I’m fine.” He said still laughing.
Ryan swatted his chest, “You ass.”
Joel raised one eyebrow skeptically, “Now is that what you call the love of your life?”
“Who said you were the love of my life?” Ryan retorted playfully.
“You did, don’t you remember. ‘Joel…Joel... oh... ohhhh... You’re the love of my life.” Joel mocked his voice an octave higher. “You don’t remember that?” He asked pouting.
Ryan shook his finger at Joel reprimanding him, “Now I can’t be held accountable for what I said in the heat of the moment.” He teased before kissing Joel on the mouth.
“Ahhh….but you do admit saying it?” He asked with a wicked grin.
“Well…um maybe.” Ryan said thoughtfully scratching behind his ear. He looked over at the handsome guy laying next to him, the one who invaded his every thought. He enjoyed moments like this, their playful banter after being together intimately; this moment belonged to them exclusively.
The vibrating of Joel’s phone interrupted Ryan’s thoughts as he felt Joel move away from him, reaching for his phone on the nightstand.
“It’s Brye.” Joel smiled reading his message, his eyes widening with shock. “Fuck….” He sat up in a panic almost knocking Ryan off the bed.
“What?” Ryan questioned with concern, pulling the covers up to his chest.
“Get dressed; my parents are on their way over here.”
“What, but I thought they weren’t coming till this afternoon.” Ryan said jumping out of bed, looking around frantically for his clothes.
“Yeah, well I guess they changed their mind.” Joel said hopping around on one foot with the other in the pant leg of his jeans caught up in the twisted fabric.
“Here…” Ryan tossed him a wrinkled shirt that he found under the bed, while looking for his shoes. He pulled his own shirt down over his head while at the same time shoving his foot into his shoe.
He and Ryan hurriedly threw the covers on the bed right before the knock on the door. Ryan combed his fingers through his hair, sighed heavily, and forced a smile. Joel did the same, moisten his lips with histongue, glanced around the room giving it a once over, gave Ryan a quick nod and opened the door.
"Pop...mom, hey." He greeted standing in the doorway.
"Hey dude." Mitch smiled standing beside his wife. Joel pressed his lips together bobbing his head, unaware he was preventing them from entering.
"Um...baby can we come in." Joel's mom smiled lovingly trying to peek around him...
"Oh...oh," Joel ran his hand over the top of his head nervously. "Sure." He cleared his throat stepping aside allowing them to enter.
"Oh, hey Ryan." Mitch waved before handing Joel the bag he was carrying.
"Hello Mr. Masterson...Mrs. Masterson." Ryan greeted shyly forcing a smile.
"Oh honey, don't be so formal, its Mitch and Jan. Janice smiled.
"Okaay." he smiled chewing nervously on the inside of his cheek. All four stood there in uncomfortable silence for about two beats.
"Soooo...what's in the bag?" Joel asked breaking the silence.
"Oh just a few things I put together for you." Janice answered as she sauntered around the room absorbing it all in. Mitch eyed his wife carefully watching her every move, before turning his attention back to his son.
"Um...yeah your mother made you and your brother organic homemade granola bars, and preserves from the figs we have in the back yard." He answered matter of factly.
Ryan raised an eyebrow suspiciously, as he watched her carefully, sharing an occasionalglance.
"So Joel...where’s Jaxson?" Janice asked casually over her shoulder she ran her hand over the top of his dresser.
"He's um... not here." Joel answered as he sat the bag down on the bed.
"I see that." Janice laughed coyly glancing at Ryan, as she played with her long black hair that she wore pulled back in a ponytail.
"I don't know where he is." Joel admitted as he walked over standing beside Ryan who drew his browns together confusingly. Everyone was quite again. Mitch sat down on Joel's bed lacing his fingers together in his lap as Janice continued to survey the room.
She strolled by Ryan stopping in front of him. She smiled softly, using the tips of her fingers to brush away the stray strains of hair from his eyes.
"Your hair is longer, I like it." She smiled warmly, tilting her head slightly trying to look into his eyes.
"So...um where's Brye?" Joel asked raising an eyebrow curiously.
"Joel..." Janice turned to face her son. "Are you and Ryan practicing safe sex?" She asked genuinely concerned avoiding Joel's question all together.
"MAWH...JANICE!" Joel and Mitch called out in unison.
"Yes..." She answered politely placing her hand over her chest innocently.
Ryan gasped with a look of shock on his face. He closed his eyes tightly wishing the floor would open up and swallow completely.
She eyed her husband, "Mitch, what do you think we just walked in on...I mean look at them, poor Ryan can't even look at us.” Ryan swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat, still looking down at the floor. “And Joel, his shirt is wrinkled, not to mention turned inside out." She pointed to her son, who looked down at his shirt, then to Ryan with a stupefied expression on his face and shrugged his shoulders.
Mitch sighed heavily scratching the back of his head easing off the bed as if he had been sitting on sacred ground. He sighed looking apologetically to Ryan then to Joel.
"Well...are you?" She repeated the question placing her hand on her hip. "I mean its okay I just want you to be safe honey." She smiled kindly.
"Mom, you’re embarrassing Ryan." Joel sighed wrapping his arm around Ryan's waist before answering. "Yes...yes we are." He said proudly, while Ryan nodded agreeing with him.
"Good.” Janice replied before pinching him on the cheek. "So Brye should be here any minute, I think he was meeting Olivia, I can't wait to met her, she sounds really nice."
"Yeah, she sure has that boy's nose wide open." Mitch commented. “All I hear is Olivia this…Olivia that.” He laughed.
"Well, she is nice." Joel added.
Ryan nodded, "Yeah, I think she's good for him."
"Good. So where did you boys want to eat, we figured we'd let you pick the place since we picked the last time." Janet said excitedly.
"Thank god..." Ryan mouthed the words to Joel causing him to cough into his fist, covering his laughter.
"As long as it’s healthy.” She laughed, shaking her finger at her son and his boyfriend.
Mitch put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her softly on the cheek, "So you ready for the game against IU?” He asked Joel.
"Hell yeah, they can't touch us." He laughed.
"Over confident are you?" Ryan asked jokingly.
"Whose side are you on anyway?" Joel asked nudging him with his shoulder, before Ryan could answer Joel's phone vibrated on the nightstand. Mitch reached for it handing it to Joel.
"Here you go."
"Thanks..." He reviewed the message. "It's Brye he and Olivia are outside."
"Well let’s go then." Mitch motioned toward the door ushering everyone out.
Lunch went over well; Olivia and Janice hit it off perfectly. They settled on a little Bistro called Tuscany’s. The owner was into healthy living as well and when Olivia found out Janice and Mitchell were vegans she suggested it. The bistro served a variety of sandwiches, which was a plus for Ryan. They also served fresh garden salads and provided a nice selection for vegetarians as well; it was actually one of her favorite places, which made a good impression on Janice.
Brye was excited to see Olivia and his parents hitting it off so well, Janice in particular, Mitchell was easy, he got along with anyone, it was his mother, whom he loved dearly that he wanted to impress.
After everyone ordered their food, the guys broke off in a conversation of their own about sports, football in particular. Brye sat across from Olivia and his mom. He smiled fondly at his two favorite ladies watching them giggling and whispering back and forth, feeling a little awkward at times when they would look at him and break out in laughter.
“Oh yes sweetie,” He overheard his mother say, “I have a picture, I’ll have to bring it next time.”
“Noooo….” Olivia shrieked.
“Um-hum….” Janice smiled nodding slowly.
“What?” Brye inquired, curiously.
“Nothing that concerns you.” His mom said taking a sip of her herbal tea.
“Oh boy…” Brye rolled his eyes smacking his forehead with the palm of his hand feeling defeated.
“Okay guys, I’m outta here.” Joel said tossing his napkin in his plate. “We’ve got to meet with the coach before the game.”
“Oh yeah.” Mitch nodded taking the last bite of his tofu burger. “You’re hanging with us right Ryan?”
“Yepp…” Ryan answered, he rode over with Joel, but had planned to hang with out with Joel’s parents before the game.
“I figured we would hang around campus and go to the pep rally.” Mitch suggested. Both Brye and Ryan nodded their approval.
“Well, if it’s okay with you, I was going to take your mom-“
“Jan, call me Jan.” Janice insisted.
“Okaay…Jan to this boutique, I know she will love it.” Olivia mentioned fishing for her keys.
“Cool…see you guys later then.” Joel said getting up from the table. He placed his hand on Ryan’s shoulder kissing him on the cheek. He walked around to his mom and hugged her around the neck before kissing her as well.
“See you later sweetheart.” She smiled.
“Dad…” Joel and Mitch gave each other a high five while Brye ducked covering his head. Joel looked to Olivia then back to Brye, deciding against the traditional knuckles to the head, and instead, settled for a high five.
Ryan smiled with a sparkle in his eyes as he watched his tall, lean… handsome man exit the restaurant.
Indiana University Hoosiers –Vs- Northwestern Wildcats from the commentator’s standpoint.
“Well Bob, what do you say….The Hoosiers verses the Wildcats.
“You know Clint; I think it’s going to be a very exciting game.”
“Yeah we got number 27 for Indiana.”
“Yes…Masterson…number 21 for Northwestern.” Bob added.
“Yeah, it’s pretty exciting... I hear Indianapolis is looking at him seriously.”
“Yes, I heard that…I saw an interview with him last week on ESPN College Sports News.”
“He’s a nice guy; I’ve talked to him a couple of times.” Bob stated.
~*~*~ Start of the third quarter.
Indiana has the ball, score 15... NW 13
Kickoff returned for 18 yards. 1st and 10 with an incomplete pass to the right by Kenneth Taylor to, James Miller who rushed up the middle for one yard. Miller passes across to Dale William for four yards who rushes up the middle for 3 only to be over turned by Banks.
Emmett Banks number 8 rushes right for 15 yards passing the ball to number 21 Joel Masterson who rushed up the middle for 10 yards scoring a TOUCHDOWN…. Bringing the score Indiana 15...Northwestern 19. Jaxson Phillips kicks and its good, score 15 IU…20 NW.
Wildcats kick off touchback by Hoosiers.
Taylor rushes left for 6 yards throwing a pass to James Miller, which is intercepted by number 21, Masterson. He looks for an opening and passes the ball to Banks.
“Wait…Masterson is tackled after he releases the ball.”
"Man, that was some hit, I don't think he saw that one coming."
“MASTERSON IS DOWN!” Bob shouted.
“Banks rushes for another TOUCHTOWN!”
“Wait…..Masterson is still down…”
“He’s not moving.”
“I don’t see how anyone could take a hit like that and walk away.”
“I’m sure a penalty will be filed.”
“It has to be…”
“The game has been stopped; the crowd is now standing on their feet in shock, silenced.”
“I know…you can hear a pin drop.”
“The Coaches are on the field.”
“Coach Jackson is waving for the paramedics.”
“Masterson is not moving…”
“Wait…did number 43 Melvin Tank, just shove Taylor?”
“I think he did…”
“I wish we could hear what’s going on.”
“A fight is ensuing on the field, Masterson is still down and the teams for fighting.”
“Oh My God… Security is on the field, all the team members are fighting…, and Masterson has not moved, he is surrounded by the team doctors.”
“What in the world is happening in College football tonight?”
“What the FUCK was that!?” Mitch yelled jumping to his feet. He grabbed the railing that was preventing him from running on to the field. “That’s a Bull SHIT move!” He spat. Brye and Ryan stood to their feet as well, Brye, breathing anger while Ryan stood unable to move, his was a feeling, not of anger but one of fear.
While Joel’s father and brother stood yelling profanity at the field of players and coaches, Ryan was in awe… silenced, his eyes focused on the field, focused on Joel who had not moved since his body hit the ground. It was as if Ryan witnessed the whole thing in slow motion.
Joel running, fast on his feet, the ball tucked under his arm as he dodged the players from the other team ready to stop him at any means. Thinking quickly he looks for his wide receiver, Emmett Banks who is opened and passes the ball. He stands there for a second watching Banks running for a touch-down unaware of the ”train wreck”, the 250 lb tackle heading his way….he didn’t see it coming.
“What happened?” Janice asked noticing the commotion from crowds standing on their feet. She and Olivia were so engrossed in their conversation they didn’t see the play.
“That God-damn-“ He waved his arms through the air.
“Um…Mitch.’ Ryan swallowed the lump lodged in his throat. “Joel’s not moving.” Mitch’s rant was interrupted when Ryan nudged him.
“Huh?” Mitch sounded annoyed, eyes still focused on the game.
“…Dad something is wrong with Joel, he’s not moving.” Brye nodded to the field.
“What’s wrong?” Olivia asked standing behind Brye looking over his shoulder.
“It’s Joel.” He answered not taking his eyes off his brother.
“I’ve gotta go to him.” Ryan said as he frantically started pushing his way past Mitch and the other spectators sitting beside them. His voice, shaky and panic-stricken.
“Ryan wait!…” Mitch called out to Ryan who was already half way down the stairs taking a few at a time. Mitch grabbed his wife’s hand dragging her behind him. Janice took two steps to Mitch’s one in an effort to keep up with him, with Brye and Olivia following close behind.
Ryan held on the railing to keep from falling down the stairs taking two and three at a time. He ran under bleachers instinctively turning to the left forcing his way through the crowed breezeway. His breathing, heavy, and his vision blurred due to the tears brimming his eyes ready to fall any second, his mind on one thing and one thing only…. Joel.
Ryan was brought out of his trance abruptly when he felt a firm grip on his arm.
“Hold on, I can’t let you on the field.” The young security guard informed him as he crossed his arms over his chest defiantly blocking Ryan’s way.
Just as Ryan was about to protest, Mitch, Janice, Brye and Olivia caught up to him, all struggling to catch their breath.
“That’s my son out there!” He shouted pointing to Joel who was now surrounded by a team of doctors and his coach. The security guard looked behind him then back to the family. In a clam voice… as calm as he could, giving the circumstance instructed Mitch to go ahead.
“Okay sir, you can go, but I can only let one family member on the field, and I’m not supposed to do that.” He pointed out nodding to Mitch then added, “Joel is cool, I like him…” He stepped aside allowing him to pass. Mitch looked to his wife then to Ryan resting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Ryan tried to force a smile but failed. He placed his hand on top of Mitch’s gripping it tightly.
“Go…” He choked out chewing nervously in the inside of his cheek. Janice held Ryan tightly as they watched Mitch run onto the field.
“This had to be a bad dream.” Ryan thought as he scanned the football field. In front of him, so close and yet so far from his grasp was his boyfriend being placed on a stretcher, his only comfort was knowing he was not alone…his father was with him.
To the left of him were his and Joel’s friends being led away by security like common criminals, arms pulled tightly behind their backs, it took every security guard working to subdue the rowdy team members fighting on the field. It took three to hold Tank alone.
Brye stepped up behind Ryan placing his hand on his friends shoulder. “Hey, let’s go…” He said softly. “We need to get to the hospital.”
“I’ll drive…” Olivia offered pulling her keys from her purse.
“That’s a good idea.” Janice smiled sadly taking Ryan by the hand. “Come on son.”
They reached the parking lot just in time to see the ambulance pulling off. They could see Mitch inside busily helping the paramedics. Ryan stood there motionless feeling helpless as he watched the ambulance getting further and further from his sight.
~*~*~ late into the night.
Janice caressed her husband’s back lovingly as they waited in Joel’s room for word from the doctor.
“He’s going to be alright, he’s a fighter, he’s your son he knows no other way to be.” She whispered softly in his ear, wiping away the tears that streamed down her cheeks.
Mitch forced an agreeing nod, though he was not so sure, he didn’t want to burden his wife with his concerns. All he knew at this moment was his son lay in this bed hooked up to machines that monitored his blood pressure, his heart rate and his breathing, they were the only signs that his son was alive, there was no movement of his fingers, no flickering under his eyelids…nothing.
“Look at our boy.” He choked out a heavy sob, he sniffed trying to wipe away his tears.
Janice laced their fingers together tightly. She rested her wearying head against his shoulder squeezing him within her secure embrace. “I know baby.” She sighed.
“Just a couple of hours ago he was giving me shit.” He laughed humorlessly. “About my gray hair, calling me his old man.” He gasped, “What the hell happened?”
“It was an accident.”
“You think so Janice, because I don’t.”
“What do mean?” She questioned with concern.
“I mean, Joel had passed the ball.” He said eyeing his wife, “There was no need to tackle him. It just seems fishy to me.”
“No…” Janice gasped, placing her hand to her mouth. “Are you saying someone did this to our son on purpose…I don’t believe you, I won’t.”
“Then you explain it to me. I talked to Melvin and he feels the same way.”
Their conversation was interrupted when they heard someone enter the room.
Mitch stood to his feet quickly. “Dr. Levy, how’s my boy?” Mitch asked his voice still shaky. The doctor smiled warmly to Janice then back to Mitch as he made his way over to his patient’s bed. He picked up the chart, flipping through the pages, nodding every now and then. He sat the chart down at the foot of the bed and checked the monitors.
“Joel is a lucky young man.” He said as he picked up the chart again.
“We know, he’s a fighter.” Mitch agreed reaching for his wife’s hand. “So is he going to be alright?” He asked his voice hopeful.
“Well…um, have a seat.” He motioned to Mitch. “We’ve put Joel in an induced coma. We wanted the swelling to go down. He has a few cracked ribs, but that’s not our concern.” He paused briefly with a heavy sigh.
“What?” Janice asked with worry.
He pressed his lips together tightly. “Your son has suffered what is known as SIS Second Impact Syndrome, diffuse brain swelling and a thin subdural hematoma.” He paused making sure they understood what he was saying.
“Second…does that mean he had an injury before?” Janice asked.
“It would appear so, maybe he just blow it off, um… never complained, because with a concussion there is usually headaches involved.
“Oh my god….” A frantic gasp erupted from Joel’s parents.
“What are you really saying, give it to me straight.” Mitch said looking at his son, then back to the doctor. “Will he come out of this okay?” He swallowed thickly.
“Joel will be fine, the body is amazing, and he’s young.”
“But…the CT scan also showed there is a blood clot located in a place where if you try to do surgery, he could suffer permanent damage.”
“Such as?” Mitch interrupted.
Dr. Levy sighed looking to his patient, then back to his parents. “…If something goes wrong he could lose his sight, his ability to walk, even death, several things play a factor in this. It’s just too risky.”
“Then fine…You... you said my boy will be okay so don’t’ do the surgery.” Mitch laughed nervously. “What’s the big deal, Joel will be okay.” He said convincingly.
“Yes, he will be fine if we don’t do the surgery. There’s a treatment we can do that will slowly dissolve the clot, But.”
“But?” Mitch questioned again with a slight irritation evident in his tone.
“Mr. Masterson, Joel can’t ever take another hit like that, ever again.”
“Okay…” Mitch agreed.
“No, Mr. Masterson…never.” He stated emphatically. Joel’s football career is over, as a player anyway.”
Mitch was silent as if he didn’t hear or understand what the doctor had just said. He placed his hand over Joel’s and sighed. He knew his son’s dreams of being a professional football player. He rolled his eyes, shaking his head as tears streamed down his face. Janice wept silently resting her head on his back.
“Joel is going to be fine.” She smiled as a loving mother would, she didn’t care about college, or professional football, all she cared about was her baby was going to be alright.”
The doctor looked at Mitch, “Do you understand what I just said?”
“Yes, of course we do.” Janice spoke out. “Who cares about football, Joel is going to be alright, and that’s all the matters.”
“Janice…”Mitch spoke softly, taking his wife by the hand. “Joel is going to be devastated.” He sighed as he slowly ran his tongue over his top lip.
“What do you mean?” She questioned knitting her brows together.
“Football has been his life since his was able to hold one in his tiny little fingers. And to tell him he can’t play the game he loves so much is going to kill him.” Mitch rested his head in his hand.
“What!?” Brye’s eyes widen with shock, his mouth agape, “Joel can’t play football?” He questioned incredulously as he walked numbly over to his to his parents and the doctor.
He looked down at his big brother who lay still in the bed, unaware of what was going on around him. Unaware that fate had dictated his future. Brye hugged his father for support.
“Dad?” Tears brimmed his eyes that would fall at the slightest blink.
“I know son.” Mitch combed his fingers through his son’s hair.
“Um…I’m going to give you all sometime alone.” Dr. Levy smiled sadly. “I’ll come back to check on Joel in a bit.” He nodded to Mitch. He placed a consoling hand on Janice’s shoulder. ‘Mrs. Masterson...I’m so sorry” He glance over to Joel before turning to leave. Janice released the breath she was holding, wiping away the tears that flowed uncontrollably.
“Football is his life, his dream, dad, how are we going to tell him he can’t ever play again?”
“He’ll have to accept it.” Janice said faintly as she sniffed wiping her nose. “It’s too dangerous.” She shrugged her shoulder defiantly. “I’ve got my son and that’s all that matters.”
”But that’s not all Janice.” Mitch stated his voice slightly elevated.
“You know Mitch, there’s more to life than just football.” Janice stood up angrily.
“I just hate that you act as if he won’t be able to deal with this.” She glared at him. “You know this would not have happened if you didn’t push him so hard.”
“What!...How is this my fault?”
“You…you pushed him…Be a man…be a man you always told, play hard…play rough.” She spat.
“Janice, what are you saying...? I love my son.”
“Oh really, even after he told you he was gay.”
“Oh my god.” Mitch ran his hand roughly down his chin shaking his head, looking at his wife in disbelief with hurt in his eyes. “Is that what you think, that I pushed him to play football because he told me he was gay?”
“Mom…dad?” Brye looked at his parents with total confusion.
“No…” Mitch looked to Brye, “You mother has been with me all our adult life, and to think... No to say something like this is absurd, and proves she doesn’t know me at all.”
Mitch walked up to Janice who had her face buried in the palm of her hands hearing agonizing cries bubbling forth. He slowly removed her hands reviling her tear stained cheeks looking her intently in her eyes. “I know you’re upset, I’m gonna go get us some coffee.” He said before kissing her softly on the cheek, Janice was very protective of her boys even with their own father and as hurt, as he was by that statement he knew she was being irrational and didn’t mean it, pain, hurt and fear can bring division among the closest families.
“You want anything son?” He asked quietly.
Brye shook his head no, sitting down on the bed next to Joel taking his hand into his own.
“Oh dad?” He called over his shoulder, never taking his eyes off his brother.
“The guys are out in the lobby, you might want to go talk to them, they’ve been here all night.”
“Mom do you mind if Ryan comes in, he’s outside the door.”
“I’ll send him in.” Mitch answered before she could speak, knowing her the way he did, he knew it was fine. He glanced lovingly at his wife as he opened the door.
Ryan stood in the doorway. He felt as if his feet were cemented to the floor. Shoving his hands in the pocket of his jeans, he slowly walked over to Brye and his mother.
Janice looked over her shoulder reaching her hand out to his. She could tell this was hard for him, as hard as it was for everyone. “Hey…”
“Hey…” Ryan whispered, “How’s he doing?” Ryan asked nervously while biting his lower lip.
“He’s gonna be fine.” She replied.
Brye shook his head stepping back from the bed allowing Ryan to take his place. “He is going to fine.” Brye answered placing his hand on Ryan’s shoulder reassuringly.
“Good…” Ryan nodded slowly. He couldn’t believe this was happening. He bit his thumbnail nervously before looking at Joel. He sighed as he stepped closed to the bed, he looked like an angel…his angel.
“What’s going on…why is he like this?” Ryan asked over his shoulder, though not taking his eyes off Joel.
“They put him in a coma, till the swelling goes down.” Janice answered. She stood beside Ryan placing her arm around his shoulder.
“Yes, they do it sometimes to patients with injuries such as his.” Janice said.
“Yeah…”Brye sighed coming his fingers though is hair. “Ryan, Joel will be fine, as long as he never… as long as he doesn’t…” Brye stopped, struggling to find the right words. He did not know how to explain it.
“As long as he doesn’t what?” Ryan asked, taking Joel’s hand in his. He breathed hitched at first contact. A single tear streamed down his cheek. Ryan knew at that moment, Joel was the one. Just touching him made, his body feel alive…awaked just as it did this afternoon when they made love. Ryan placed a shaky hand over his mouth trying to choke back the tears.
“Maybe we should go find your father.” Janice motioned to Brye. He smiled sadly taking her hand.
“Ryan, will you be okay alone?” Brye asked softly leaning over his shoulder. He got the message that his mom wanted to give Ryan some alone time with Joel. She could see Ryan cared for her son, and from the look in his eyes, she saw love. She knew it; because that’s the same way, she looked at Mitch.
“I’ll be fine.” Ryan pulled the chair that was against the wall close to the bed with one hand never letting go of Joel’s with the other and sat down. Janice squeezed Brye’s hand, glancing over her shoulder as they slowly closed the door giving Ryan alone time with Joel.
Janice walked into the waiting area and was astound by what she saw. The room was packed… standing room only; most of them were teammates, who looked pretty beat up from the fight, along with a few of Joel’s close friends, all hoping for good news about their friend.
She glanced sadly around the room absorbing it all in. Over in the corner was Tank who sat with his back slumped against the wall examining his bruised knuckles, as he ran his tongue over the cut on his lip.
“Emmett and Jaxson sat on the floor back to back supporting their tired, aching bodies against each other. Emmett had a cut above right eye, while Jaxson had a dark red ring around his.
“Where’s my husband?” She asked quietly using the back of her hand to push away the stray strains of hair in her beautiful sad blue eyes. Brye released her hand and walked over to sit down next to Olivia. She smiled kindly as she scooted over making room for him.
“Mrs. Masterson, your husband and Coach Jackson went for coffee.” A young man leaning against the wall informed her.
“Thank you…” she nodded slowly.
“How’s Joel?” Tank asked with concern.
“He’s gonna be fine Melvin.” She answered, “How are you?” She asked drawing her brows together noticing the cut on his lower lip.
“I’m just fine ma’am…you should see the other dude.” He chuckled, his laugh slowly faded when he noticed the sad frown on her face. He cleared his throat, sighed, and leaned back against the wall.
“Thank you guys for coming, but you should go home, there’s nothing you can do until he wakes up.”
“If it’s all the same to you ma’am I’m staying.” Jaxson raised his hand, giving a short nod.
“Me too…” Emmett echoed Jaxson. Tank and the others nodded in agreement.
“Okay then.” Janice smiled warmly, feeling all the love and support coming from Joel’s friends. “Guess we should order pizza.”
“Um…” Olivia raised her hand, “We’ve already took care of that, everyone chipped in, we ordered ten large pizzas, one thin wheat crust veggie, we substituted pesto for the cheese for you and Mitch. They should be here in five minutes. We’re staying.” She said adamantly sitting back crossing one leg over the other. Janice nodded quickly using the tips of her fingers to wipe away the tears streaming down her face.
Ryan looked around the room, he checked he monitor, looking lovingly at Joel, before checking the IV drip.
Gently squeezing Joel’s hand, he smiled, breathing a heavy sigh, “It seems like they have everything in order.” He combed his fingers through his hair. He wiped the tears that were falling down his cheeks with the back of his hand, placing it over his mouth while squeezing his eyes shut.
“Joel…” He leaned over and whispered in his boyfriend’s ear. “Can you hear me…I don’t know if you can, nor do I care because I’m gonna talk to you anyway.” He tenderly caressed Joel’s hand, holding his breath as he noticed the monitor speed up slightly.
“Maybe you can hear me.” He said excitedly scooting closer to his boyfriend. “I was so scared Joel.” He breathed heavily, “I thought I had lost you. Um…he hit you so hard. You told me once that after taking so many hits you don’t feel it, well at that moment I prayed it was true.” Ryan sniffed as he ran his fingers gingerly through Joel’s hair.
“Oh and I wanted to tell you, you were right…you are the love of my life and when you wake up, you’re going to get sick of hearing me say it.” He smiled softly. He leaned forward slowly as if he was sneaking and pressed his lips firmly against Joel’s warm soft mouth.
The heart monitor sped up on the initial contact which frightened Ryan at first, but then he relaxed and whispered. “I liked it too and there’s more where that came from when you wake up.”
Brye opened the door, and stuck his head inside, “Hey Ryan, mom said come and get some pizza.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“She knew you would say that,” He laughed, “And she said you can come back after you eat.”
Ryan sighed knowing this was a battle he could not win, so he conceded. “I’ll back Joel.” He whispered in his ear, before kissing him again.
Brye held the door open allowing Ryan to exit, but not before looking longinglyover his shoulder at his sleeping prince.
He eased the door open and stepped inside. The room was dark and quiet; the only sound that could be heard was the beeping coming from the monitors. He chewed nervously on the inside of his cheek as he walked slowly over to Joel’s bed. He looked warily over his shoulder before sitting down on the chair previously occupied by Ryan. Stroking his hand gently he leaned forward and kissed him.
“Hey you…how are feeling?” Jace asked as he caressed Joel’s cheek with the pad of his thumb, “I thought he would never leave, but don’t worry I’m here and I’ll take good care of you.” He smiled.
She stood quietly in the doorway observing the man she loved, the man who at this moment carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, completely broken, the man she loved since she was a young girl.
She leaned against the wall remembering the first time she laid eyes on him. She was a freshman in high school… and he was a senior in college. It was at Lincoln Park on a warm July evening, at the Give Peace a Chance Rally. She smiled thinking back, his hair was longer then hers, and he wore a pair of grungy denim jeans with a tie-dyed dashiki worn under a leather-fringed vest. He gave a powerful speech that wowed the crowd, her included, and he has been wowing her every since.
Mitchell was a great father to her sons, a wonderful loving husband, and the only man she would ever love. She knew he loved her and their sons more than life itself and she felt so ashamed for saying such horrible things to him, knowing in her heart it that was not true.
She walked over quietly, gently placing her small hand on his shoulder. “Hey?” She whispered softly in his ear, “There you are.”
“Oh hey.” Mitch replied looking briefly over his shoulder before looking back out the window. “How are you?”
“Okay I guess.” She answered caressing her husband’s shoulder. “The pizza is here.” She said kindly.
“I’m not hungry.”
Janice laughed softly, “That’s what Ryan said too. But not the other boys, they have empty pizza boxes all over the place, and Olivia, man, that girl can eat.” She laughed.
Mitch nodded forcing a smile as he rested his chin in the palm of his hand. “What about you… did you eat?” He asked.
“Nah, I’m not hungry either.” She sighed. “Mitch, Joel is going to be fine you know that right?”
“And Mitch, about what I said, I didn’t-“
“Shhh….” Mitch interrupted her, “I know baby.” He turned to face his beautiful wife pulling her petite body onto his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head against his chest. They sat there in comfortable silence consoling each other as they always did in troubling times.
Mitch kissed her softly on the lips and sighed, “You know, you were right Jan, I did push him.”
“No... Let me finish. I pushed him, but not for the reasons you might think. Do you remember when he came out to us?”
“UmHum…” Janice smiled fondly.
“It was like he was telling us he had just learned how to whistle or something.” Mitch chuckled. “He gave new meaning to the word proud.”
“Yes he did, remember he said he did research on it, so he knew he was gay.” She laughed shaking her head at the thought of Joel calling a family meeting to inform them of his sexual preference.
“That son of ours.”
“He’s amazing.” Janice said fondly.
“Yes, he is which is why I was so hard on him. The world can be cruel Janice and not so accepting. True we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
“I mean I want him to be able to stand for himself, defend himself if need be. I’ve told him and Brye, you have to stand for something or-“
“You fall for anything.” Janice finished her husband’s sentence; she had heard that from Mitch all her life with him, which was his creed to live by.
“Exactly…I know he has wonderful friends who accept him and his lifestyle.”
“How could they not, Joel is a take me or leave me kind of guy.” Janice admitted matter of factly.
“That he is…that he is. And Football is a dream of his, and as their father it’s my privilege...my honor to support him and Brye, run alongside them in as they chase their dreams, whatever they might be. And Joel’s dream has been ripped from him and he doesn’t even know it yet.” He sighed heavily.
“I understand, but he has other talents, he mentioned he wanted to go into film too baby.”
“I know Janice, but I’m scared for him, I just don’t want him to be disappointed.”
“He’ll be okay, we will help him.” She stated adamantly, yet with love and concern as only a mother could. Mitch nodded in agreement, as his wife stood her ground, her son was alive and going to be okay, and that’s all that mattered to her.
“So…” Ryan picked a rock up off the ground and skipped it across the hospital parking lot. “Tell me the truth, what did the doctors really say?” He asked turning to his best friend who was sitting next to him; he squinted trying to block the sun that was shining in his eyes.
He and Brye were sitting on the curb in front of the hospital. They both needed some air and some alone time from the rest of the crew that was waiting inside.
“Well….” He hesitated for a moment thoughtfully trying to find the right words once again. He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “Ryan, Joel is going to be fine physically that is… but the doctors say he should never play football again.”
“Oh…” Ryan brought his hands to his face in prayer form as he absorbed the words. He breathed in and out slowly. “Okaay…” He said faintly, his hand still covering his mouth.
“You know this is going to kill him.” Brye stated sadly.
“I know it’s going to be a shock at first, we’ve talked about his career, I know he wants to be a professional football player, but I think you are underestimating him Brye, Joel is strong if nothing else.” Brye agreed with a quick nod. “He’ll bounce back, he has no choice.” Ryan stated with conviction in his voice.
Brye laughed, “You sound like my mother.” He said placing his hand on Ryan’s shoulder.
“Brye…” Ryan sighed, “I love him.”
Brye’s eyes widen with shock, “Wow…love is a pretty strong word don’t you think?” He questioned scratching behind his ear.
“Maybe, to some, but not to me.” Ryan shrugged his shoulder as he picked up another rock and tossed it across the parking lot. “It’s something about him and it’s not his football career. It’s his confidence, his patience. He’s so cool,” Ryan said with a faraway look in his eyes. "He’s smart. He has the greatest since of humor, and he gets me. And from this point on, I want to spend the rest of my life with him. From the moment he touched me, I knew.”
"Wow..." Brye said in awe.
Ryan chuckled, "Not like that...I mean touched me, not sexually. Really touched me...the moment he knocked me off my feet." Ryan fondly remembered.
“No, I understand.” Brye smiled glancing at his friend. “It’s like that with Olivia, not love,” He clarified, “not yet anyway… but I really like her.”
“Yeah, I like her too, Jaxson did well with that one.” Ryan laughed. “How does he know her anyway?”
“He mentors her little brother.”
“Really….Jaxson.” Ryan asked with surprise, “We are talking about, ‘Hello losers’ “Ryan used air quotes…”Jaxson right?” He asked in disbelief.
“The one and only. Their father is overseas in the military and Jaxson volunteers at the boys club in his spare time.
“Wow…” Ryan chuckled with amazement.
“Jaxson is pretty cool…crazy but cool.” Brye laughed.
“Well…” Ryan placed his hand on Brye’s shoulder using him for support as he stood up and stretched. “We better get back inside I need to check on Joel.” Ryan extended his hand to Brye and helped him to stand.
“Ryan you’re the best, I knew I made the right decision choosing Joel for you.” Brye teased.
“Yeah, you did.” Ryan smiled with a click of the tongue. They placed their arms around each other’s shoulder and headed back inside.
Jace adjusted Joel’s covers making sure he was warm. He sat back and sighed, as he watched Joel sleep, or so he thought.
“You know Joel, I’m sorry I had to do this, but I knew no other way.” He confessed. “I have to admit, I could not watch the game knowing what was going to happen, I mean watching you hurt and all, but don’t worry baby I will take good care of you, you will see you don’t need anyone but me, well and your parents, I like them, your dad is a trip.” He laughed. “And given time they will come to like me too when they see how much I love you and how well I take care of you.” He ran his fingers through the front of Joel’s short-cropped bangs.
“And don’t worry love I’ll even be nice to that brat brother of yours; I know how much he means to you. I just wish you didn’t want to hang out with those buddies of yours; they are a bad influence on you, always wanting to hook up with random chicks… finding guys for you to fuck.” He said angrily.
“You might not understand why I did this, but you will. I had to show you, I’m the one you need…I’m the one who really cares about you. Ryan is no good for you, he’s a wuss, he’s pathetic, he’s not strong like me, he’ll make you weak. I could deal with the other guys you fucked around on me with, but this one…Ryan was different, yes I said was.” He smiled his voice now clam again. He has to go; he doesn’t know how to handle a man like you." He smiled as he crossed one leg over the other.
“I can see us now, Joel and Jace Masterson, Oh sure I’ll take your last name, He laughed as if he was really having a conversation with Joel. “Jace Masterson sounds so sweet as it rolls off the tongue. I wouldn’t expect you to give up yours, I mean you are already a household word, anyone who watches college football, knows Joel Masterson. I actually did you a favor. After yesterday the College world is a buzz about what happened, and when you recover, you will be on top and I’ll be right by your side, where I belong.”
Jace was so engrossed in his conversation he didn’t hear someone enter the room.
“Jace…” Ryan stood in the doorway of Joel’s room. “How did you get in here?” He questioned his voice laced with suspicion.
“Oh hey Ryan.” Jace stood up turning away from Joel. He watched Ryan enter the room cautiously. “I came to see Joel.”
“Um…I didn’t see you come in and I was right outside the door.” Ryan nodded behind him. As he eyed Jace.
“Well, you were talking and I didn’t want to interrupt.” He replied, “But what’s the big deal, I can’t come see Joel?” He asked defensively stepping closer to Ryan. “Joel and I are close, we share something special together whether you like it or not.”
Ryan looked over Jace’s shoulder at Joel then back to Jace. “You know Jace I don’t know what you had or think you had with Joel, but that’s all over he’s with me now.”
“What I think I had…” Jace retorted. “Listen Ryan I don’t want to get into this here, we don’t want to wake and upset Joel.”
“Wake Joel…you idiot Joel’s not sleeping, he’s in a coma.”
“What?” Jace asked looking back over his shoulder. “…A coma.” He repeated faintly running his shaking fingers through his hair nervously.
“Yeah…” Ryan sidestepped Jace who stood there flabbergasted. He pulled the covers down a little not wanting Joel to be too warm.
“What happened…I mean-“ Jace asked in a daze.
“The hit Joel took will probably be his last one; the doctors said he can’t take another hit like that.” Ryan explained sadly looking over at his boyfriend before turning his attention back to Jace.
“What?” Jace questioned, the sound of panic setting in.
“It was a bad play, I mean Joel didn’t even have the ball when he was hit, Mitch, Joel’s father thinks something’s up.”
“What do you mean…something’s up?”
“They want to investigate, re-watch the footage of the game.”
“Shit…” Jace mouthed. His heart beat rapidly inside his chest as if it were going to bust through at any minute. 'He promised he wasn’t going to hurt him, that was not a part of the deal.' He thought to himself as he watched Ryan cater to Joel. He sighed thinking; he wanted Joel injured just enough where he would need help getting around, where he could show Joel that he truly loved him.
“Um…I’ve gotta go…” Jace announced hurriedly. “Is it okay to come back and visit him?”
Ryan nodded and smiled, he knew he and Jace had their differences, but he also knew Jace was one of Joel’s friends and far be it for him to keep away any friends of Joel’s at a time like this.
Jace forced a smile and turned to leave, “Ryan, I’m truly sorry.” He frowned as he shoved his hand into the pocket of his jeans.
Once outside the room Jace ran down the hall away from everyone and snatched his cell phone from his pocket. His hand shook uncontrollably as he scanned his contacts. He found the one he was looking for and hit talk.
“Shit…shit…shit.” He chanted as his call went to voicemail. “Fuck...Hey things are bad…really bad call me ASAP Damnit.” He snapped the phone shut gripping it tightly in his hand as he fell back against the wall. He looked to his left then to his right before using the back of his hand to wipe away the tears that brimmed his eyes before they fell.
~*~*~*~One week later
Ryan sat in the corner, one leg tucked underneath him, his laptop on the small serving table in front of him. To the left of it was a half-eaten bag of chili-cheese Fritos, a diet coke and a supersized snicker bar and across the room to his right was his boyfriend.
Ryan managed not to miss any classes since Joel’s accident, but everyday after class and swim practice his evenings were spent here in Joel’s room. All the nurses attending to Joel knew him by name. The one on the evening shift even ordered an extra dinner tray each night and brought it to Ryan.
The guys from the team visited everyday as well and would usually stay until they were kicked out for being too loud. The staff members always managed to let Ryan stay however pass visiting hours.
Mitch, Janice, Brye, and Olivia were there every day as well. Mitch and his wife had their daily conferences with Joel’s doctors going over his test results and his progress. They stopped giving him the Pentobarbital three days ago in effort to slowly bring him out of his coma while administering him with Tissue Plasminogen Activators to dissolve the blood clot in his brain.
Ryan pecked away on his keypad deep in concentration when he thought he heard his name. He stopped abruptly and listened closely.
“Ryan?” He whispered through a scratchy, groggy voice.
Ryan quickly pushed the table away and frantically ran to Joel’s bedside.
“Joel…” He cried, “You’re awake.” He laughed as tears of joy streamed down his face.
“Hey…” Joel tried to swallow the dryness attacking his throat. He pointed to the yellow pitcher on the window seal.
Ryan looked over to the window, “Oh my god…let me get you some water.” He hurriedly grabbed the small cup and poured the water spilling more than he was getting into the cup due to his hands shaking uncontrollably.
“Here.” He helped Joel lift his head with one hand while holding the cup to his mouth with the other. Dry gulps could be heard before Ryan felt Joel pull his head back indicating he had enough.
“Oh my god…oh my god.” Ryan cried burying his face in Joel’s chest as he sobbed desperately.
“Hey…” Joel stroked Ryan’s head consolingly.
Ryan lifted his head grabbing Joel’s hand peppering it with kisses. “You scared me to death.”
“How do you feel?” Ryan asked intentionally avoiding Joel’s question for the moment.
He sighed heavily, “I feel like I was hit by a Mac truck. My head hurts so badly.” He said grabbing his temples.
“Let me go get the nurse.” Ryan said as he turned to walk away.
“No!” Joel grabbed him by the arm. “Not yet, I want to know what happened.”
“What do you remember?” Ryan asked setting back down in the chair beside Joel’s bed.
“Nothing.” Joel admitted closing his eyes desperately trying to remember.
“But you remember me?”
“Of course, how could I forget you?” Joel laughed trying to lighten the mood.
“What’s your mom and dad’s name?” Ryan quizzed.
“What is this?” Joel protested.
“Just answer the question please.”
“Okay…okay…” Joel laughed. “Owww…”
“I’m going to get the nurse.” Ryan said standing to his feet.
“No…okay its Mitchell and Janice Masterson, and I have a brother named Brye. See happy now? Just tell me what happened.”
Ryan frowned and sat back in the chair. “I really should get the nurse Joel.”
“You will in a minute. Tell me.” He pleaded.
Ryan sighed, “Well during the Indiana game you took a hard hit and it landed you in the hospital, and Joel I was really scared.” Ryan said faintly.
“I’m sorry babe.” Joel smiled softly, “Football is a contact sport, it’s a part of it. It’s what I do.” He reached for Ryan’s hand lacing their fingers together. “How long have I been here?”
“A little over a week.”
“A week…damn.” Joel said running his fingers through his now slightly longer hair.
“Yes…a week.” Ryan confirmed.
“My mom is probably fit to be tied.”
“She and everyone else. Tank, Jaxson, Emmett, Brye, Olivia, the coach, me and your dad of course.” Ryan went down the list.
“The nurses have to put half the team out of here every night.” Ryan informed him. “The hang out is not the frat house, its room 222, at Chicago Memorial.” Ryan laughed causing Joel to laugh along.
Ryan pressed his lips together looking adoringly at the brunette. He sighed combing his fingers through his blond tress. “You know Joel; I promised you something while you were out.”
“Really what?” Joel eyed Ryan, with his stunning blue eyes; even though he had been in a coma, his eyes still pierced Ryan’s soul.
“That I would tell you something.”
“That you truly are the love of my life, I love you Joel.” Ryan whispered shyly taking Joel’s hand into his.
There was a moment of silence for two beats causing Ryan to wonder if he should have confessed his feelings to Joel. Maybe it was too soon; maybe he should have kept his feelings for Joel to himself.
“Wow…I’m a little disappointed.” Joel sighed.
“Really?” Ryan questioned his heart breaking into a million pieces at that very moment.
“Yeah…” Joel admitted. “You see Ryan I might not remember a lot of things right now, but one thing I do remember is falling in love with you, and that’s a first for me,” He noted. “And I wanted to tell you first.” He smiled disappointedly.
Ryan breathed a sigh of relief placing his hand over his heart. “You scared me for a moment.”
“Why, Ryan you are amazing, how could I not fall in love with you?” Joel asked with a smile. “Owww….” His smile faded, replaced with an agonizing cry as he grabbed his head with both hands.
“Joel!” Ryan yelled frantically, “I’m going to get the nurse.” Ryan called over his shoulder as he ran toward the door.
“Okay follow the light Joel.” Dr Levy instructed his patient as he examined him, shining the light in his left eye then his right. Ryan sat next to him, their fingers entwined tightly together; holding his breath as he watched the doctor’s every move. He wanted to ask questions but he didn’t want to distract him.
Janice stood behind him chewing nervously on the fingernail. Ryan called them after Joel woke up, they were there in five minutes, the hotel they were staying at was right next door to the hospital.
“So…how is he Dr. Levy?” She asked cautiously walking closer to her son’s bed, asking the question Ryan was dying to ask.
He sighed and nodded slowly, “He’s fine.” He smiled to Ryan before turning his attention to Janice.
“See mom, I’m fine.” Joel smiled looking into his mom’s concerned eyes. She smirked at him, then looked to the doctor for the real answer.
“What Joel is experiencing is normal. He was put into an induced coma to allow the swelling to go down, his brain had suffered severe trauma, and we didn’t want anything upsetting the healing process. If he had been awake this whole time, he would have been complaining of headaches.” He explained, “We gave him some medicine for the pain, we don’t want it to interfere with the TPA that we’re giving him for the Blood clot however, so he might have to suffer just a little longer, but your son will be fine. “ He assured her.
“Thank you Dr. Levy.” Janice smiled as she placed her hand on Joel’s leg tenderly.
“You’re welcome ma’am.” He nodded as he reviewed Joel’s chart. “Joel if the pain you’re feeling gets any worse, you let the nurses know okay?”
“I know I said headaches are a normal process of healing, but if it gets worse that what you are experiencing right now, let us know immediately.” He stressed.
“Don’t worry Dr. I’ll keep a close eye on him, I promise you that.” Ryan said eyeing his boyfriend lovingly. Joel smiled and nodded agreeingly.
“Ryan for some reason I believe you.” He patted Ryan on the shoulder before gathering his things together. “Mrs. Masterson.” He nodded graciously as he headed toward the door.
“He stepped out while the doctor was examining you. He got a call from the store, something about a mix up in our shipment.” Ryan stepped aside allowing her to take his place beside Joel.
“He’ll be back.” She smiled as she caressed his cheek softly with the back of her hand. She leaned over kissing him on the forehead. “You gave us quite a scare bunny.”
“Bunny?” Ryan’s eyes widened as he mouthed the word to Joel peeking over Janice’s shoulder suppressing a hardy laugh. Joel eyed him sternly then smirked teasingly, before allowing his mother to cradle his face in the palm of her hand.
“I’ve called him bunny his whole life.” Janice said over her shoulder as she looked endearingly into her son’s eyes. “He had this little blue bunny suit he got one Christmas, he wanted to wear it day and night, he would cry when I took it off to wash it.” She laughed. “And he would cry the whole time it was washing and then sit in front of the dryer until it was done.”
“MAWH!” Joel protested covering his face with his hand to hide his reddened cheeks.
“Do you remember it?” She asked as she sat in the chair beside Joel’s bed. Ryan stepped up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder as he listened to her talk fondly about Joel as a baby.
“Yes…yes, I remember you showing it too me. Do you still have it?” He asked quizzically.
“Of course I do, I have a box that I keep all yours and Brye’s baby stuff in. I have both your baby teeth, all your report cards from kindergarten on up, and the blue bunny suit.”
“Wow…that’s cool.” Ryan laughed.
“Ryan…” Joel eyed him seriously, “If you call me bunny in front of the guys, you’re dead, got it?” He asked with one brow raised.
“Got it bunny…I mean Joel.” Ryan giggled causing Janice to bubble forth with laughter.
“See what you’ve started mom.” Joel pouted, leaning back against his pillow, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Awww…Joel.” Ryan said teasing, “I love you though.” He said through a lopsided smile.
“Hey…” Mitch stuck his head in the door. “I’m sorry had to take that call.” He explained as he walked hurriedly over to them.
“So…how’s that head, boy?” He asked as he kissed Janice on the cheek.
“Hurts like hell.” Joel chuckled squeezing his temples together.
“I bet…I’m glad Ryan was here when you woke up. Thanks Ryan.” Mitch gave Ryan an appreciative smile.
Ryan threw his hands in the air, “There’s no need to thank me, sir, this is the only place I’d be.”
“So…” Joel adjusted his covers, “Did the doctor say when I can get out of here?”
“Hey, hold on tiger, you just came out of a coma, chill dude.” Mitch chastised his son.
“Bunny... Tiger, your parents are really into animals huh?” Ryan laughed as he sat on the windowsill crossing one leg over the other.
“Huh?” Mitch laughed with a confused expression on his face.
“Never mind.” Joel laughed. “So what about it?”
“Your father is right Joel, you shouldn’t be worrying when you can go home, you need to be worrying about getting better.” His mom said sternly, with Ryan in the background nodding in agreement.
“Okay…okay, so did we win the game against IU…please tell me we did.” Joel asked looking around the room at all their somber faces. Ryan raised his eyebrows and found something interesting on the ceiling to divert his attention, while Janice cleared her throat playing with the back of her earring, and Mitch just shoved his hands in the pocket of his knee length khaki shorts.
The room was silent, the air thick enough to cut with a knife. Joel ran his tongue over his top lip slowly as he eyed each one individually. He sighed pressing his lips together. “Okay how bad was it?” He inquired.
“Ahem... Um… they stopped the game.” Mitch answered in a low tone
“What!?” Joel asked frantically trying to sit up but the pain in his head prevented him from doing so…”Ouch.” He grabbed the side of his head.
“Joel!” Janice and Ryan said in unison, both scurrying to his side.
“Don’t do that.” Ryan scolded as he helped Joel lean back against his pillow. Janice poured him some water and handed the cup to Ryan. “Here…Joel you have to relax okay.” He said with pleading in his tone, as he exhaled heavily combing his fingers through his hair.
“I’m sorry.” Joel said faintly reaching for Ryan’s hand. He could see the look of fear in his eyes. He took Ryan’s hand into his and squeezed it gently, gazing lovingly into his eyes. “I’m okay Ryan.” He smiled warmly. Janice and Mitch smiled as he wrapped his arms around his wife’s shoulder witnessing the display of affection between the boys; it was as if they were the only two in the room.
Ryan lowered his head, bringing it closer to Joel’s, their mouths almost touching; when he pulled back abruptly remembering they were not alone. He looked toward Janice and Mitch who quickly turned their heads.
“You better kiss me.” Joel demanded jokingly tilting his face upward.
“Oh yeah…don’t mind us.” Mitch laughed.
“Nope, don’t mind us.” Janice giggled.
Ryan sighed bashfully and gently placed his lip on Joel’s. He lingered there longer than he intended, for what started out a simple peck on the lips turned into one of hope, desire, passion, and love.
Ryan pulled back breathlessly as he traced Joel’s lips with the pad of his finger getting lost in those hypnotizing blue eyes.
“Um…did you guys want something from the cafeteria, I’m feeling a little hungry.” He said breaking Joel’s spell.
“Hell, me too, I’m starving, I want a big fat greasy cheese burger and French fries loaded with ketchup. “
“Ewww….didn’t I teach you anything son.” Janice cringed with a look of disgust on her face.
Ryan laughed, “I’ll see if that’s on your diet.” He laughed over exaggerating a winked, “Mitch?”
“Green tea, if they have it.”
“Hey, I’ll go with you, maybe I can prevent a disaster waiting to happen.” Jan smiled placing her hand on Ryan’s shoulder.
Mitch smiled shaking his head, if he knew his wife… and he did that meant the cheeseburger would turn into tuna on whole wheat.
Mitch and Joel watched Ryan and Janice walk out the room gently closing the door behind them.
“I’m not going to get my cheeseburger am I?” Joel frowned.
“I’m afraid not son.” Mitch laughed giving Joel two pats on the thigh. “So how do you really feel son?”
“I feel fine, I mean besides the headaches, but the doctor said that’s normal.” Joel shrugged.
His dad took in a huge breath of air, “You know you were hit pretty hard out that there.” He bobbed his head, “You scared us this time.”
“I know…” Joel said faintly. “I don’t know who is worse mom or Ryan.” He chuckled running his hand down his chin.
“I’d say Ryan is running a close second.”
“Yeah…” They both laughed.
“He’s a very special young man Joel, you should take care of him, he really cares about you.”
“I know.” Joel said fondly.
“He’s been by your side the whole time you’ve been here, he’s helped your mom and me out a great deal.”
“Okay dad, where is this going?” Joel questioned.
“I’m saying he really cares about you…about you, not Joel Masterson the athlete, but Joel the man.” Mitch looked into his son’s eyes and he wanted to tell him, he wanted to tell him his career as a football player was over and that none of that seemed to matter to Ryan, but he couldn’t find the words. At that very moment, Ryan was his only comfort.
“Dad…” Joel placed his hand over his father’s, “I’m not going to blow this, I know I’ve said I wasn’t ready to be with just one guy, not ready to settle down, Ryan is different, you know?”
Mitch nodded slowly, “I know son, just remember listen to him, he has your best interest at heart no matter what he says.”
“Wow you really like him.” Joel smiled, still somewhat confused.
Brye interrupted his statement when he entered the room. “Hey big bro, aren’t your eyes a sight for my sore ones.” Brye laughed as he jogged over to Joel’s bed. “Come on, give me some love.” He patted his chest as he leaned over to hug his brother. They held each other tightly for a moment. Brye pulled back, “Man, am I glad to see you.”
Joel laughed, “Yeah that’s what I’m hearing it was like you guys were ready to read me my last rites or something.” Joel teased.
“Don’t play like that.” Brye eyed him with a stern shake of his finger. “Hey dad, where the warden, I mean mom, out patrolling I take it.” He laughed slowly looking around the room. “Where’s Ryan?”
“He’s with the warden.” Both Mitch and Joel laughed.
“Poor boy.” Brye said sitting on the Joel’s bed. “So….” He slapped Joel’s leg, “How you feeling?”
“I’m good, except for these headaches the doctor said its to be expected, but damn I feel like I’ve gain ten pounds, I need to get back on the field throw the ball around, run, you know?”
Brye looked to his dad and shook his head slowly, making eye contact with his father, he knew they had not told Joel the news.
Joel noticed the silence, “What?” He asked with a smile.
“Um…nothing, yeah I’ll get out there with you and throw the ball that is when the doctors say its okay.
“Cool….” Joel smiled. “So how’s Olivia?”
“She’s good, she will be on her way over after work, she sends her love though.”
“Tell her to stop and bring me a cheese-“
“I’m going to get some air.” Mitch interrupted standing to his feet; he glanced sadly at his sons before quickly heading toward the door.
“You okay dad?” Joel asked with concern. Both he and Brye watched their father walk out the door without answering Joel’s question.
“Is he okay?” Joel asked again.
“Yeah….” Byre nodded staring at the door. “He’s just tired.” He hated lying to his brother, but they had agreed to wait until he was strong enough to handle the news. He also knew this was killing his dad to watch Joel oblivious to what was going on around him. Brye watched his brother pick up the remote control and surf the channels for a sports network any sports channel, and he wasn’t sure what would hurt his brother more, finding out that he could never play football again, or finding out that everyone including Ryan knew, but no one told him.
~*~*~*~A few days later.
The sound of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up,’ was blaring through Tank’s IPod home that he brought to the hospital for this occasion. It was Friday night, there was always a party on campus every night of the week, but Fridays were the big ones. The party this Friday was an intimate group of friends, Tank, Emmett, Jaxson, Colin, Brye, Olivia, Shuree and a girlfriend of hers name Erica, Ryan and the guest of honor tonight was Joel.
Shuree, Olivia, and Erica were dancing, sharing Brye and Jaxson between the three of them. They had formed a mini ‘soul train line’, and Jaxson was dancing his way down doing the running man, being silly and just having fun, while Joel and Tank were partners, playing spades against Collin and Emmett.
The nurse on duty knew she was breaking the rules, but she said if they promised to keep it quiet, and not disturb the other patients and wear out her patient they could stay until visiting hours ended.
Ryan stood in the corner nursing the organic hummus and chips Janice brought. On the small serving table was the hummus and chips, regular chip and dip, Olivia brought a small serving tray of mixed veggies and the guys all chipped in for a hundred piece order of buffalo wings with ranch and blue cheese dressing on the side and plenty of soda for everyone, they omitted the liquor since Joel couldn’t drink.
“Mmmm…” Ryan hummed as he bit into the chip cover with the chickpea dip. He danced to the music as he watched his roommate and friends dance. He made sure he kept his eye on his most prized possession…Joel.
A smile attacked his lips as he watch his boyfriend laughing and talking trash to Colin and Emmett as he slapped the ace of spade down on extra serving table the nurse had brought in. Tank gave him a high five as he scooped up the book. Joel was in his element, in his zone. He had good friends and Ryan really appreciated that.
“Hey Ryan, get you fine ass over here, I need my good luck charm.” Joel laughed motioning for Ryan to climb in bed next to him. Ryan shoved the chip into his mouth eagerly. He wiped his hands down his jeans to remove the excess salt, and was heading over.
“Yeah man, it’s a tight game we need all the help we can get, oh and hey grab me a few wings on your way over.” Tank laughed showing off that cute dimple in his left cheek as he shuffled he cards.
“Wings, coming right up.” Ryan chuckled as he made a u-turn back to the table.
“Hell yeah, they need luck.” Emmett said briskly rubbing his hands together, “We’re about to tap that ass.” He teased, giving Colin a double high-five.
“How in the hell you figure that, you’re losing.” Joel reminded them.
“Ten for two baby.” Colin laughed, “We're going blind six…that’s one twenty, count em.”
“Joel, put us down for a blind six too man.” Tank winked before he started dealing out the cards.
“Here…” Ryan sat the small plate of hot wings next to Tank before climbing in the bed next to Joel. He licked the sauce off his finger and just as he was about to lick the other one Joel grabbed his hand placing the finger still covered with sauce into his own mouth licking it suggestively, then smiled with a slow sexy nod.
Ryan blushed as he snuggled closer to his boyfriend. “What do you think?” Joel asked holding the cards in his hand pointing to one of the cards.
“Um-hum.” Ryan smiled.
“Hey…hey, no talking across the board.” Emmett protested.
Joel laughed, “Well…let’s see. Ryan is sitting here right beside me…on the same side.” Joel motioned between him and Ryan, “So technically we are not talking across the board, besides he’s not even playing.”
“Shit…whatever man…” Emmett retorted, waving his hand dismissively, “Just deal the damn cards Tank." He said rolling his eyes at Joel with a playful shake of the head.
The song playing next on the I-home was Michael Jackson’s ‘Lady in My Life’. Erica and Jaxson were slow dancing while Olivia, Brye and Shuree were inhaling the wings and Veggies.
Brye and Olivia's them song...Lady in My Life.
“My I have this dance?” Brye asked wiping his hands off with a napkin before bowing gracefully to his girlfriend.
“Sure…” Olivia nodded sweetly. They stepped out onto their make shift dance floor and Brye placed his arms around Olivia’s small waist and she draped her arms around his neck, lacing her fingers through his long curly hair that kissed the collar of his shirt as they swayed slowly to the music together.
“Hum…” Olivia smiled softly biting her lower lip.
“Hum…what?” Brye pulled back looking into Olivia’s emerald green eyes as he played in her hair.
“Nothing…” She sighed softly. “I was just wondering if I told you how adorable you were.”
“Hum…let’s see.” Brye eyed the ceiling nodding his head from side to side. “I can’t remember the last time you told me.” He teased giving her a quick peck on the mouth.
“You’re adorkable.” She giggled before resting her head against is chest. “I love this song.”
As they danced together, Brye looked across the room at Joel deferentially and sighed heavily.
“Joel looks so happy doesn’t he?”
Olivia raised her head and glanced toward Joel and his friends. “Yeah, he has great friends, I mean look at this.” She motioned around the room, “I have been to lots of parties, but, I have to say this is a first.” She admitted approvingly. “He has a wonderful boyfriend, and brother, loving parents what more could he ask for?”
“To play football again.”
“Well he’s taking the news pretty well, if you ask me.”
“He doesn’t know.” Brye admitted sadly.
“What!” Olivia looked around the room quickly covering her mouth with her hand to hush herself. She lowered her head and her voice and whispered, “You mean no one has told him?” She questioned in disbelief. “Why?”
“Well my parents are not sure he can handle the traumatic news right now.”
“And what do you think?” She tilted her head slightly awaiting his answer.
Brye sighed, “I’m not sure, I mean I feel he has a right to know.” He shrugged as they continued to dance.
“You know Brye; the new is going to be traumatic no matter when he hears it.” She said hesitantly.
“What does Ryan think?” She smiled sadly to Ryan who was snuggled in Joel’s arm.
“He wants what’s best for Joel…One thing I do know, is Joel is about honesty, and he is going to be upset with all of us when he finds out we knew and was all in his face.”
“Then you should tell him, He’ll understand.” Olivia encouraged lovingly. She didn’t want to push, and she realized this was hard on Brye, she was just happy she could be there for him and his family.
He kissed her gently on the forehead. “I will when the time is right.”
Olivia placed her hand to his face caressing it gently, “You know your brother better than anyone and you’ll do what’s right.” She kissed him on the cheek.
The sounds of the horns at the introduction of Michael Jackson’s Thriller startled them causing them both to laugh nervously.
“Break it up you two.” Jaxson laughed, as he, Shuree and Erica laughed dancing beside them.
“HA…IN YOUR FACE!” Tank yelled from across the room as he slapped the big joker down winning the last book, setting Colin and Emmett. “Hell yeah we win!” Tank stood up giving Joel a double high five, then ducked his head quickly and covered his mouth as they heard the door open, fearing it was the nurse, Brye hurried to turn down the music. Everyone stood still watching as Jace entered the room.
“Awww…” Everyone gave a sigh of relief.
“Shit man you scared us.” Colin said.
All eyes were on him. He shoved one hand in his pant pocket and ran the other through his hair as he glanced around the room.
“Here comes trouble.” Brye whispered in Olivia’s ear, causing a look of confused to appear on her face.
“What’s he doing here?” Tank asked disapprovingly.
“I said it was okay.” Ryan answered looking at Joel for approval.
“It’s okay.” He patted Ryan on the shoulder.
“Hey Jace, what’s up man?”
“Hey Joel, I just came by to see how you were doing, I didn’t mean to stop the party.” He smiled as he walked over to the bed.
“Ryan?” He gave a short nod.
“What’s up Melvin, Colin?” He eyed each one cautiously. He knew he wasn’t a fan of Tanks, but he didn’t know about the rest of Joel crew, but Tank, he made it clear his dislike for him.
“I’m gonna get something to eat.” Tank said, his voice laced with venom, getting up, he eyed Jace bumping him on the shoulder as he walked pass not bothering to say excuse me.
Jace laughed humorlessly, as Joel smiled uncomfortably tightening his grip around Ryan.
“Um…thanks for stopping by.”
“No worries, I’ve been by several times but you were still out.”
“Oh…” Joel looked at Ryan, his brows furrowed.
“Yeah he came by once while you were in a coma.” Ryan informed him.
“I wanted to come by more but I didn’t feel welcomed, I know how your friends feel about me.”
“I think I’ll grab something to eat too.” Colin nodded toward the food, feeling a little uncomfortable sitting in the mist of them.
Ryan sighed and shook his head. They continued making small talk as Brye and the others congregated around the food.
“Who invited him?” Brye asked looking over Jaxson’s shoulder to the three trying to play nice.
“Ryan.” Tank answered with irritation in his voice.
“You don’t like him?” Olivia questioned curiously.
“Are you kidding?" Shuree chimed in, "Tank and Jace almost come to blows every time they are in a room together.”
“You mean Jace almost gets his ass kicked every time.” Emmett corrected her has he took a bite of celery.
“Yeah that’s more like it. If it wasn’t for Joel stepping in.” Colin agreed.
“Why?” Olivia whispered.
“Crazy shit.” Tank answered, “He’d show up at places where he knew Joel was going to be. One time he claimed he was jumped, to get Joel’s attention if you ask me.” He added.
“Wasn’t that the time Joel told him he didn’t want to see him anymore?” Jaxson asked scooping humus onto his chip.
“Yeah man, bull shit… just like I said. And one day he stepped to me all cocky saying, “I was trying to break him and Joel up”…I was like, what the funk… you ain’t together.” Tank huffed through a snarl.
The nurse opened the door and smiled, “Okay kids party’s over.”
Everyone objected, voicing his or her disapproval until she placed her hand on her hip tapping her foot to the floor. “Visiting hours is over at ten, its ten thirty, and my patient needs his rest. So you hooligans gather your things together, kiss Joel goodbye and come back tomorrow.” She smiled, “Oh and leave me some of those wings, they smell delicious.”
“Sure thing.” Ryan said getting off the bed eyeing everyone trying to hurry them along. Tank gathered his IPod home carefully wrapping the cord around it, as the girls packed up the food, leaving nurse Luann some of course. Jaxson, Colin, and Emmett helped store everything in the proper bags.
“Joel…” Jace looked around for Ryan making sure he was out earshot. “I’m really sorry this happened, but will you call me when you get out?”
“For what?” Joel questioned.
“I want to take care of you; you’re going to need to take it easy when you get home.” He said placing his hand on top of Joel’s.
“Um…” Joel slipped his hand from under Jace’s, “I’ll be fine, thanks though.”
“Oh… you mean Ryan?” He said rubbing the back of his neck feeling disheartened.
“Yeah…I mean Ryan, Jace we’ve had this talk before remember?”
“Yeah…yeah, we’ve had this talk on more than one occasion.” He licked his lips seductively. “As I recall, it’s always after you meet someone new.”
“Jace…” Joel said annoyed.
“Okay…Okay” Jace held his hands up in defense. “But just for the record, I’m gonna always be here for you.”
“Is everything okay over here?” Ryan asked looking sternly at Jace then softening his gaze as he looked to Joel.
“Yeah…everything’s fine, Jace was just saying goodbye, right Jace?” Joel asked with his brow raised.
“Um…yes. I was just leaving.” He stared at Joel disappointedly. He was about to speak when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out recognizing the number. “I’ve got to take this…See you around Ryan. And Joel I’ll be expecting that call.” He said as he hurried out the room.
“What call?” Ryan questioned crossing his arms over his chest defiantly.
“Nothing. He, Um…”
“Hey guys we’re out.” Jaxson interrupted, holding a tray and a couple of empty bowls under his arm.
“Okay…” Joel smiled then looked back to Ryan who was clearly upset and still waiting for an answer.
“Yeah, man it’s been real.” Tank grabbing Joel’s hand giving it a hard firm shake.
“See yea tomorrow Joel.” Colin and Emmett waved.
“Yo man I’m going to walk Olivia out and I’ll be back, I packed some extra wings in here.” He nodded to the covered plate. “Luann will let me back in.” He looked over his shoulder for his girlfriend, then whispered, “I think she likes me.” He chuckled into his fist.
“Oh I’m sure she likes you, whats not to like.” Olivia laughed sneaking up behind her boyfriend. He jumped when she placed hand on his shoulder.
“Oh hey Olivia.”
“Umhumm...” She eyed him pretending to be upset. She broke character and giggled kissing him on his cheek. “Anyway…” She turned her attention to Joel. “It was wonderful seeing you.” He hugged him around the before kissing him on the cheek. What do you want me to bring you tomorrow?”
“Tacos…” Joel laughed.
“I can do tacos, just call me when your mom leaves and we’ll have junk food together.” She winked.
Shuree and Erica hugged Joel kissing him goodbye as well.
“Come on babe.” Brye said wrapping his free arm around Olivia’s waist, “I’ll walk you out."
“How about you stay and talk to your brother and I’ll walk out with everyone else.” She nodded biting her lip giving Brye a slight wink.
“I’ll walk you out.” Ryan offered. I want to grab something out of my car.”
“Oh…okay.” Brye walked over. He ran his hand up the back of Olivia’s head and pulled their faces together kissing her deeply.” Call me to let me know you made it home okay.”
“I will.” She pressed her lips together tightly staring longingly into his blue eyes thinking to herself Brye was becoming harder to resist, she could wait, couldn’t she?”
“I’ll be right back Joel.” Ryan called over his shoulder picking up his keys. “We’re not finished.” He eyed him as he motioned Olivia and the others out the door.
Joel smiled nervously as he watched them leave.
“What was that about?” Brye asked inquisitively as he sat down in the chair next to Joel.
“Nothing just Jace being Jace.” He sighed.
“Damn, that boy is like a bad penny, he just won’t go away.” He laughed.
“Yeah, but enough about him,” Joel said wanting to change the subject. “Thanks for putting this together.” He thanked his brother referring to the party.
“Anything for you, you know that.”
“Anything…really?” Joel asked.
“Yeah…of course. You’re my brother and I love you man."
Joel inhaled deeply, placing his hands up to his lips. He closed his eyes tightly and breathed again rubbing his finger under his chin thoughtfully. “Then tell me the truth.”
“Huh?” Brye’s eyes widened with shock.
“Tell me what Ryan, mom and dad won’t.”
“Hey guys I have to use the ladies room.”
“Me too.” Shuree and Erica agreed.
“Will you guys drop this off at the nurse’s station for Luann?” Ryan asked handing the plate of food to Colin. “ I’ll wait on for the girls.”
Ryan waited outside the restroom. He blew out a tired breath of air resting his head back against the wall, shoving his hands into the pocket of his jeans.
He lifted his head slowly when he though he heard a familiar voice around the corner. He listened intently when he heard Joel’s name.
“What the Fuck, man I said hurt him, not end his fucking career!” He spat to the person on the other end of the phone. Ryan listened his mouth agape as he covered it trying not to gasp.
“Yeah…yeah you dumb ass, Joel can't play football ever again.” He yelled into the phone. He listened to the person on the other end of the receiver.
“Hell no, I’m not going to say anything are you a fucking moron?”
Ryan’s hands trembled as he listened to Jace’s confession.
“Oh.My.God….” Ryan chanted silently as he tried to prevent the bile trying to erupt as his stomach muscles tightened and he started to hyperventilate. He tried to silence himself pressing his hands tightly against his mouth as he listened closely.
“Yeah, well I guess you know I’m, not freaking paying you for this, and you better keep your mouth shut or you’re dead, you hear me. Oh and don’t call me… again lose my number.” Jace snapped the phone shut. He breathed heavily looking down trying to steady his shaking hand.
“My god Jace, what have you done?” Ryan stepped around the corner catching Jace by surprise. He stood motionless locking eyes with him, and if looks could kill Jace would have died right on the spot.
“What they won’t tell you, Joel?” Brye repeated trying to sound confused.
“Yeah…I know it must be something pretty bad. I mean I see the way mom and dad look at me, the way Ryan won’t.” Joel sighed shutting his eyes tightly.
“What do you mean, Ryan, is here day and night.” Brye pointed out defending his best friend.
“I know, waiting on me hand and foot…He’s perfect, so I’m just wondering why.” Joel shrugged.
“Tell him.” Olivia’s words echoed in Brye’s head. He scooted his chair closer to the bed looking intently into his brother’s eyes, the eyes that begged for the truth.
“Okay…ahem…” Brye cleared his throat as he repositioned himself in his chair stalling.
“What is it, Am I going to die?” Joel asked, his voiced was laced with uncertainty.
Brye chuckled humorlessly, “No Joel…but.” He sighed scratching the back of his head leaving his statement suspended in mid air. “How do I say this?”
“Just say it.” Joel pleaded trying to make eye contact with his brother.
“Okaay…Joel according to Dr. Levy and all the test they’ve ran on you, the results show you have taken one too many hits.”
“And…” Joel encouraged him to continue.
“You were suffering from something called ‘Second Impact something.” He scratched his head trying to remember the medical term. “Basically it means this is not your first rodeo Joel. According to the test you’ve been hurt really bad before, and maybe you blew it off or you just suffered through it.” Brye eyed Joel looking for some sort of confession from his brother.
He sighed when he received no confirmation and continued. “Anyway, Joel because the impact was so sever this time, the doctor said the next time you receive a hit like that you could die.”
Joel chewed nervously on his lower lip heaving a heavy sigh. He nodded his head quickly as if he understood what Brye just told him then shrugged, “So, I’ll just be careful next time."
“That’s just it Joel, there can’t be a next time. They say you can’t play football anymore.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Joel laughed dismissingly.
“No!. Joel it’s not…you can’t play ball again.” Brye insisted emphatically.
“So…I mean what?” He gestured, waving his hands in the air, asking the question his brother had already answered.
“I know this is hard for you Joel.” His brother said sympathetically
“Hard!...” Joel hissed, “Shit…” He ran his shaky hand through his hair trying to decipher what he was just told, though he heard his brother, it wasn’t registering. He lowered his head pinching the bridge of his nose. “Okay…okay, let me get this straight.” He inhaled. “The doctor said I have this disease. This fuckin disease.” He choked on the word.
“It’s not a disease Joel it’s a condition.” Brye corrected him.
“This condition.” He repeated sarcastically. “That makes me this little freak, that if someone bumps or…or knocks me down I’m going to die... What!?” Joel yelled grabbing his head.
“No, not like that…” Brye tried to console him. “Everyday life stuff is cool, it’s just…”
“Just no more football….right?” Joel interrupted him. “Do you know how long I’ve planned for this?” He asked rhetorically. “My whole life.” He answered his own question. “This can’t be happening to me…can it?” He questioned himself.
“I know…” Brye said faintly. His heart was breaking as he watched his brother try to process the information. In all of five minutes he just witnessed his brother go through four of the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, but one he know Joel would have a hard time with was accepting.
“I mean I’m good…really good.” Joel stated as fact.
“No, I don’t think you do little brother. I have scouts contacting me already.”
Joel threw off his covers and got out of bed. He started pacing the floor with his hands on his hips. “Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Baltimore…my god.” Joel turned eyeing is brother. He placed his fingers to his temples shaking his head.
“I know.” Brye lowered his head and sighed.
“Damnit, Brye can’t you say something other than I fuckin know?” Joel said spitefully.
“What do you want me to say Joel?” Brye asked defensively.
“I don’t know…I don’t know… anything, like this is a sick joke maybe.” He replied with pleading in his eyes.
“I’m sorry Joel.” Brye stood up shoving his hands in the pocket of his jeans. He sighed, “I wish it was a joke, but it’s not.”
“So Ryan knew this too?” Joel asked as he stared in a daze out the window.
“Yes.” Brye confessed sadly.
Joel glanced over his shoulder then back out the window. “Whose idea was it to keep this from me?”
Brye shook his head, “moms.”
“Mom?” Joel smirked.
“Well mom and dad.” He stepped closer to his brother, “Joel they were only doing what they thought was best, you know that?”
“Where’s Ryan?” Joel asked avoiding his brother’s question.
“He went to get something from his car.”
“Shouldn’t he be back by now?”
“Um…yeah,” Brye answered. “I’ll go look for him.” He offered, giving Joel some time alone.
Brye turned slowly and headed for the door.
“Brye?” Joel called over his shoulder, still looking out the window at nothing in particular.
Brye smiled sadly, nodded slowly, and walked out closing the door behind him.
“Ryan?” Jace’s eyes widen with shock, his mouth agape. His heart was pounding sporadically in his chest. He eyed him carefully as he shoved his phone into his pocket.
Ryan glared at Jace then diverted his gaze to his pants pocket. “Who was that?”
“What?” Jace looked down at his pocket then quickly back to Ryan.
“You heard me, who was that?” He demanded forcefully. “Who in the HELL were you talking to? “ He asked trying to keep his rage in check remembering they were in a hospital.
“Ryan, calm down.” Jace said in an even tone forcing a smile while he took cautious steps toward Ryan to quiet him.
“I WILL NOT CALM DOWN….YOU BASTARD! JOEL ALMOST DIED BECAUSE OF YOU!” Ryan shouted, pointing back in the direction of Joel’s room. His voice laced with anger and hatred. The thought of what Jace did infuriated him; there were no words to describe what he was feeling at that moment.
“No…no…Shhh…Ryan, shut up…SHUT UP!” Jace yelled frantically .He tried to grab Ryan by the collar but Ryan stepped back quickly, balling his hand into a fist and hit Jace right above his eye, knocking his off balance. Jace managed to grab Ryan by the collar and swing him into the wall with a loud THUD!. He lunged forward reaching out trying to grab Ryan again, but he was quicker than Jace, and raised his leg and kneed him in the groin, causing him to drop to him knees in pain.
Coughing uncontrollably Jace pleaded, “Ryan…you’ve got to understand I-“ Jace tried to explain when he received a gut wrenching blow to the stomach, knocking the wind out of him completely. All Ryan saw was shades of red, his anger erupting like a volcano deep within him. He was about to strike again when Jaxson grabbed him by his arm spinning him around.
“LET GO OF ME!” Ryan shouted.
“What the hell is going on here!?” Emmett yelled as Colin, Tank and the girls ran around the corner. They were at the nurse’s station waiting for Ryan when they heard the commotion.
“Oh my god…” Shuree and Erica shirked covering their mouths
“Are you okay?” Olivia knelt down beside Jace.
“GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM, OLIVIA!” Ryan yelled in a fit of rage trying to catch his breath as he struggled to get free from Jaxson’s hold. “HE’S THE REASON JOEL IS IN HERE!” Ryan screamed desperately trying to break free.
“What?” Olivia asked in awe backing away from Jace.
“What are you talking about Ryan?” Tank asked glaring at Jace.
“Calm down, Ryan, they’ll call Security if you don’t stop yelling.” Colin warned. He was confused and trying to understand what happened between Jace and Ryan. Jace lay curled up on the floor in a ball with his arms wrapped tightly around his stomach gasping for air.
“He’s crazy…” Jace managed to choke out thought labored breaths.”
“What the fuck is he talking about JACE?” Tank asked again this time demanding an answer. Everyone focused his or her attention on Jace.
“Go head, tell them.” Ryan said angrily lowering his tone, as he adjusted his clothes after Jaxson released him. “Tell them what the fuck you did you SON OF A BITCH!”
“Yeah man, what the hell is he talking about, did you have anything to do with Joel’s accident?” Jaxson asked eyeing him suspiciously.
“No!...” Jace shook his vehemently.
“Liar!” Ryan yelled lounging for him. Jaxson quickly grabbed Ryan by the waist and lifted him off the ground.
“Ryan!” Colin eyed him sternly.
“I heard him, he was on the phone talking to someone, and…and, saying he didn’t want them to hurt Joel that bad, and something about not paying him for the job.”
“What?” Jaxson said releasing Ryan again.
“Is he telling the truth, did you pay someone to do this to Joel?” Tank asked. He bent down over Jace, and with one hand grabbed him by the throat lifting him off the ground and slammed him against the wall, knocking what little air out of him he had left, holding him there.
“He better be wrong. He warned Jace.
Emmett placed his hand on Tank’s shoulder, “Tank, let him go.” Tank didn’t acknowledge Emmett’s presence as he gripped Jace tighter, causing him to gasp for air.
“You’re killing him!” Olivia gasped covering her mouth with her hand.
“Tank, let him go, she’s right you’re going to kill him.” Emmett agreed trying to reason with his friend.
“He should die.” Ryan said faintly.
“Huh?” Jaxson, question with surprised.
“I said he should die.” Ryan repeated his harsh words. “It’s because of him, Joel will never play football again.”
“What!?” Everyone hearing Ryan’s news expressed an echo of concern and confusion. Jace’s attempts to release himself from Tank’s grip were futile as he felt his body slammed harder against the wall and the grip tightening.
“Yeah….” Ryan nodded with tears in his eyes. “The hit Jace put out on Joel.” Ryan laughed humorously at the play on words in the literal sense. “Was the last hit he will ever take, thanks to him.”
“What are you talking about?” Emmett asked bewildered.
“He’s right, Joel can never play football again.” Olivia confirmed placing a reassuring hand on Ryan’s shoulder.
“Damn…” Jaxson said lowering his head in disbelief.
“That’s fucked up man.” Emmett glared at Jace shaking his head with disgust.
“You did that?” Colin asked in disbelief. “Are you fuckin kidding me?”
“You guys don’t understand, I didn’t mean for this to happen.” Jace struggled to speak thorough the chokehold Tank had around his neck.
“You’re right it is FUCKED UP!” Tank screamed in Jace’s face and without warning slammed his fist in his face it with all his might. The girls shirked in terror covering their eyes and mouth with their hands. Blood splatter from Jace’s nose and mouth as his body slid lifelessly down to the floor.
“Ryan, get the girls out of here!” Colin yelled over his shoulder. He, Emmett and Jaxson tried to pull Tank off Jace as he beat him senselessly. “Go find Brye!” Ryan nodded quickly ushering the girls around the corner.
“YOU BITCH!” Tank yelled as he kicked Jace in the ribs.
“OWWW!” Jace double over rolling around on the ground.
“Melvin!” Jaxson yelled pulling Tank back, “That’s enough.” He said trying to catch his breath. It took both Emmett and Colin to restrain him.
Jace laid on the floor a bloody mess coughing up blood, as he struggled to breathe.
“Get his phone.” Emmett instructed Jaxson, “We’re going to need it.” Jaxson pulled it out of his pocket and held it in the air.
Ryan and the girls ran into Brye coming down the hall. He immediately noticed the look on distress on the faces.
“What’s wrong?” He asked Ryan as he pulled Olivia into his embrace.
“Jace…Jace did it…” Ryan said running his bruised hand through his hair.
“Jace did what?”
Ryan tired to form a coherent sentence. “He paid someone to hurt Joel.”
“Yeah, it’s true.” Olivia confirmed. “He set Joel up.”
“I can’t believe it.” Shuree said shaking her head. “That piece of shit.”
“Are you sure…Where is he?” Brye asked Ryan.
“He’s around the corner, with the guys.”
“Is Tank with them?” Brye asked as he glanced down the hall with a look of concern on his face.
“Fuck!” He sighed, then turned his attention to his girlfriend, “Olivia, I need you to go home, all of you.” He nodded to Shuree and Erica.
“Okay…” Olivia agreed before kissed Brye on the cheek, “Please be careful.” She insisted, smiling sadly.
“I will.” He assured her.
Brye pushed the down button on the elevator, shaking his head in awe. ‘This could not be happening.’ He thought to himself.
“Oh, Ryan, Joel is looking for you.”
“Okay…” Ryan nodded heading back to his room.
“Yeah…” He looked back over his shoulder.
He knows.” Brye warned him.
Ryan sighed, “Okaay…”
Brye waved to the girls as the elevator doors closed and hurriedly headed down the hall fearing for Jace’s life. Jaxson and Joel were roommates, and they all were close, but out of four of them Tank and Joel were the closest. When he turned the corner, he was shocked to see the guys dragging Jace to the exit door that lead to the stairwell.
“What’s going on…Where are you taking him?
“Anywhere but here.” Colin replied.
“Is he…is he dead?” Brye asked swallowing hard.
“Hell no, he just got his ass kicked by Tank.” Jaxson laughed holding the door open allowing them to pass by.
“What if he tells?” Brye asked with concern.
“Tell what?” Emmett asked looking over his shoulder as he tried to help hold Jace up. “Tell that Ryan and Tank kicked his ass for hiring someone to hurt Joel during the game. Take a hit…a hit that landed Joel in the hospital… the hit that almost killed him.. The hit that ended his football career forever, you mean tell someone that?”
“Plus we have this.” Jaxson said holding up Jace’s phone. “Insurance, Ryan heard him on the phone talking to the fucker who did his dirty work.”
“Ryan?” Brye asked with surprise.
“Hell yeah, Ryan put that new beauty mark on Jace’s face.” Tank pointed to the cut over Jace’s eye.
“Nawh, I don’t think we have anything to worry about, do we?” Emmett asked Jace with an insulting slap on the face. Jace shook his head no, before they dragged him down the stairs.
“Guys we need to get out of here.” Colin said hurrying them along. “Go home, Brye we’ll call you tomorrow.” He said as the door closed behind him.
Brye stood there combing his fingers nervously through his hair. He was going to check on Joel and Ryan, but decided against it, feeling they were going to need this time alone. Everything was moving so fast, Joel needed Ryan, they needed each other, and he needed Olivia.
Ryan stood outside the door of Joel’s room, not sure what awaited him on the other side, but not matter what condition Joel was in, he would deal with it. He took a deep breath trying to relax the nervousness that had his stomach tied up in knots. The adrenaline was still coursing through his veins.
He combed his fingers through his hair and adjusted his clothing before placing his hand on the doorknob, turning it slowly.
The room was quiet and still. There was an unsettling calm about it. Joel had his back to Ryan still standing in front of the window with his arms crossed in front of him. His silhouette was perfect in every dimension. His broad shoulders were well defined and the gray tee shirt he wore lay perfectly, covering the muscles in his back.
The curly locks of hair now slightly longer than it was two weeks ago caressed his neck gently. He looked perfectly normal; no one could tell there was a war going on inside his brain, one that would live there forever, preventing him from living out his dream.
“Hey.” Ryan spoke quietly as he entered the room.
“Where have you been?” Joel asked still not facing Ryan.
“Joel, we need to talk.” He said hesitantly, avoiding Joel’s question intentionally stepping closer to him.
“Yeah…” He placed his hand on Joel’s shoulder. “We need to sit down.”
“No actually I’m fine, Ryan.”
“Well can you at least look at me?” He asked closing the space between them, as he wrapped his arms around Joel’s waist. He felt Joel’s body tense up at his touch, but he didn’t pull away. Ryan sighed thankfully for that, resting his head against his strong back somehow finding comfort there.
Joel pulled Ryan’s arms from his waist and turned around to face him. “Happy?” He asked curtly with a raised brow.
Ryan tilted his head slighty gazing into those blue eyes he had come to love and smiled sadly. Joel sidestepped Ryan brushing past him.
“Who knew?” Joel demanded with his hands on his hip as he stood in the middle of the room shooting Ryan a death stare.
“Everybody…” Ryan said faintly looking down to the floor. They say you learn something new every day and Ryan’s lesson for today was that Joel had a temper, and it reared its ugly head when he felt he had been deceived.
“Everybody…” Joel repeated biting his lower lip almost drawing blood to keep from yelling. “Everybody... Everybody like who, Ryan!?” Joel yelled kicking the chair across the room. Ryan cringed drawing his shoulders to his ears as the chair hit the wall with a BANG!
“Your mom, your dad…everybody.” Ryan confessed dropping down to his knees burying his face in his hands. He knew this moment would come, he just wasn’t expecting it tonight; not after everything that happened earlier, he thought he would have time to prepare himself mentally.
“My mom, my dad… and you, Ryan…” Joel winced trying to block out the pain that was slowing attacking his brain. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He gritted his teeth angrily trying to control his temper.
Ryan lifted his head looking into Joel’s blue eyes that appeared darker than usual, “It wasn’t my place…your mom-“
“Your place?” Joel interrupted, shaking his head, “What are we doing here Ryan…what is this?” He stared at him in a state of bewilderment.
“I trusted you, Ryan…” He inhaled deeply, gripping his fist tightly digging his nails into the palm of his hand. “You said you loved me…”
“I do…” Ryan answered adamantly.
“Then why didn’t you tell me the truth, Ryan?” Joel tilted his head slightly waiting for an answer. “You of all people.” Joel turned facing the wall burying his face in the crevice of his arm while banging his fist against it desperately.
“Okay…OKAY!” He said raising his voice, demanding Joel’s attention as the tears that brimmed his eyes started to fall. “You want to know the truth; I’ll tell you the truth! I don’t want you to play football Ever again. I don’t want to watch you die…Okay?” Ryan cried, his voice was an octave higher. “I don’t want to sound mean…insensitive or callous Joel, but I don’t give a damn about your football career. What I care about is you….you Joel.” He said with pleading in his voice. “Please….” He cried. “I thought I lost you forever. I watched you fall. Watched your body hit the ground, and you didn’t move…you didn’t fuckin move, Joel!” Ryan grabbed his hair tightly as if he was going to pull it out of its follicles.
He heaved a heavy sigh trying to catch his breath. “I…I couldn’t get to you, I had to ride in the car with your brother to the hospital and that was the longest ride of my life.” He added. “With no word on whether you were alive or dead.” His voice cracked as the tears spilled down his cheek and over the hands that covered his face.
Joel watched Ryan completely break down in front of him and it broke his heart. Ryan was hurting badly and it was because of him. He wanted it to go away, all of it. He wished he could re-live that day… that play, if only he had seen it coming. The tears that filled Joel’s eyes started to fall down his face as he cautiously walked over to Ryan. His breath; shaky. He bit his lower lip nervously uncertain of how Ryan would receive him. It wasn’t about him anymore, he understood what Ryan and his parents went through.
Joel lowered his body down to the floor kneeling in front of the blond who was on his own personal roller coaster ride.
Ryan sat up straight trying to gain his composure as he felt Joel place his hand gently no his cheek. “So if you’re mad at me so be it.” Ryan blurted out defensively. “I only want what’s best for you.” His body trembled at Joel’s touch.
His eyes were red and blotchy from the tears that stained his cheeks. He ran is tongue over his lower lip slowly closing his eyes, allowing Joel’s hand to cradle his face tenderly. His touch was kind and soothing.
“I’m sorry Ryan.” Joel said faintly as he sat on the floor. He pulled Ryan into his arms and held him tightly, their bodies rocking together slowly, consoling each other as they cried in each other’s embrace.
After a few moments, Joel pulled back, gazing lovingly into Ryan’s sad eyes, cradling his face in the palm of his hands. Ryan’s stare was trusting and scared at the same time. He swallows the lump that had formed in this throat as he watched Joel move closer at a painfully slow pace as if he was unsure of his actions.
Ryan tilted his face upward as he felt Joel’s warm breath on his mouth. His breath hitched on contact. Joel pressed his soft lips deeply on Ryan’s swollen red ones, their kiss gentle and forgiving.
“I love you…” Joel whispered softly into Ryan’s mouth as he parted his lips allowing Joel’s tongue to enter. A soft moan escaped Ryan mouth as Joel forces his tongue deeper in side, sealing their lips together. Joel let out a deep-throated growl as he kissed Ryan hungrily…passionately, raking his hands over his body staking his claim.
Ryan ran his hand under Joel’s shirt, stroking his back, loving the feel of his skin against the pads of his fingers. Their kiss was desperate, as if they were trying to devour each, it was laced with tears, but it never tasted so sweet.
Ryan pulled back breaking the kiss struggling to catch his breath as rested his forehead against Joel’s.
“I love you, Joel. I don’t want to lose you ever.”
“You won’t. I promise.” Joel nodded reassuringly.
“Shhh…” Joel placed his finger to Ryan’s mouth. “I understand. I get it, Ryan, its okay. But you have to promise me something.” He eyed him with one brow raised.
“Remember it’s you and me, no matter what.” He stressed. “I know my parents mean well, they do…but I’m in a relationship with you, not them. You know me…well you’re getting to know me.” He corrected himself. “Please never keep anything from me again, and I promise to show you the same courtesy okay?”
Joel peppered Ryan’s face with kisses, “God I want to make love to you so badly, is there any way we can lock that door.” He glanced over his shoulder.
“I want you too, but… Joel there’s something else you should know.”
“What…” He asked as he caressed Ryan’s cheek.
Ryan pressed his lips together tightly and took a deep breath. “The guy that tackled you,” He paused shortly trying to get his thoughts together. “He did it after you threw the ball.”
“Okaay.” Joel replied with a look of confusion attacking his features.
“Well, he was paid…um… not paid, but hired to hit you.”
“Huh…” Joel dropped his hand from Ryan’s face mystified. “What do you mean paid?”
“Jace…Jace hired someone to tackle you Joel.”
“I don’t believe you, there has to be a mistake, Jace has…has done some pretty fucked up things, but he would never hurt me Ryan. I don’t believe you.” He said hoisting himself from the floor.
Ryan stood up too walking slowly behind Joel. “He wasn’t trying to hurt you, well not really, I mean he wasn’t trying to end your career.”
“Then what was he trying to do, I don’t get it.”
“He’s sick, and in his twisted mind he was trying to break us up and make you need him.”
“That’s absurd.” Joel said dismissively. “Wait, how do you know this?” He asked skeptically.
“I heard him tonight on the phone talking to the person. It was after he left here. I overheard him.” Ryan took a cautious step toward Joel who stood there speechless.
“Does he know…does he know you heard him?”
“Yes…I confronted him. Joel it got ugly.”
“Yeah…I was so angry, I wanted to kill him. I wanted him dead for what he did to you, and I would have killed him if it wasn’t for Jaxson and the rest of the guys.” Ryan admitted lowering his head shamefully.
Joel paced the floor shaking his head, “I don’t know how to handle this…How am I supposed to deal with this Ryan? How am I suppose to feel, tell me because I honestly don’t know.” His breath hitched as he tried to fight back the tears.
“I’m so sorry baby.” Ryan said wrapping his arms tightly around Joel, pulling him into his loving embrace.
“I could have learned to live with this being an accident, but he took everything away from me...Everything.” Joel gave into to his feelings and allowed his tears to fall. He broke down in his boyfriends arms sobbing quietly.
“Shhh….It’s okay, Joel let it out.” Ryan said consolingly as he stroked Joel’s head allowing his own tears to wet the side of Joel’s face as they fell.
“He didn’t take away everything,” Ryan whispered. “I’m still here and I swear I’m never leaving. I know you had your dreams, but we can start new ones, you and I together… we can make our own.”
Joel relished in Ryan’s embrace, he closed his eyes breathing a heavy sigh. He knew he had a lot to deal with. Life as he knew it just changed for him and it scared him to death. Right now, he needed comfort, the kind of comfort that only Ryan could provide. Ryan provided a place to escape, a place to hide from the torrent rains, at least for tonight.
“Let me make love to you.” He whispered softly in Ryan’s ear. “I need you.”
The car was quiet, except for DJ Khaled’s, ‘All I Do Is Win’ featuring Ludarics blasting through the speakers. Tank was driving, with one hand on the steering wheel bobbing his head to the music, with Emmett sitting up front with him. Colin and Jaxson sat in the back with Jace between them. Colin had his finger to one ear drowning out the music and his cell phone to the other talking to someone on the phone.
“What are you going to do to me?” He asked his voice laced with dreaded fear.
“Awww…I think we are going to let you decide.” Jaxson replied, patting him on the shoulder.
“Um…hey Sam.” Brye waved, shoving his hand in his pocket. “Is she awake?” He asked his voice hopeful.
“Yeah, I think so.” Samantha looked back over her shoulder, scratching the top of her head. “Come in.” She stepped aside allowing him to enter. “Olive, Brye’s here!” She called trying to stifle a yawn. It was almost midnight and she had been working all day and decided to hit the bed early, but since her bedroom was closer to the door she heard Brye knocking first.
“Thanks…” Brye smiled making his way inside. Samantha was Olivia’s roommate, part-time student, and model for one of the local agencies in downtown Chicago. She and Olivia met on the train, struck up a conversation and had been friends every since…that was three years ago.
Samantha was at least 5’8, with a thin boyish frame. She wore her strawberry blond hair short and layered framing her slender face, almond shaped brown eyes, and full lips.
“Brye…” Olivia smiled worriedly. “What happened at the hospital; is everything okay…is Joel alright?” She asked draping her arm around his shoulder as she guided him past Samantha and down the hall toward her bedroom.
Once inside she closed the door. “Brye…” There was deep concern in her voice.
“Olivia everything is so fucked up,” He said taking a deep breath. “I told Joel the truth.”
“Good. He needed to know.” She smiled sadly as she and Brye sat down on the edge of her bed. She reached for his hand taking it into hers, lacing their fingers together. “How did he take it?”
“Hum…” He sighed. “Like I expected…hurt and disappointed. I mean he feels like everything has been taken from him and he had no say.” Brye frowned thinking back to his conversation with his brother.
“I understand…but at least he knows and now he can decide what to do with his life from this point forward.”
“I get what you’re saying, and you’re right. But, it still didn’t make it any easier to tell him.”
“What about Ryan?” She asked concern as she reached her hand up behind Brye’s neck running her fingers through his hair.
“What about Ryan?” He repeated slightly confused.
“How did Joel take knowing that Ryan knew and didn’t tell him?”
“I don’t know. I just hope he isn’t’ too hard on him. Ryan loves my brother and would do anything, and I do mean anything for him.”
“Well…” Olivia sighed, “Unfortunately they say ‘you always hurt the ones you love’. Aside from you and your parents, Ryan is the closest person to Joel, so it’s understandable he will feel comfortable releasing all his pressure and anxiety to him and… on him. It’s nothing personal you understand, he might just see Ryan as a means to vent.”
“But, that’s not fair; Ryan has been nothing but good to Joel during this whole thing.
“I know, and trust me, so does Joel. But, Brye, life’s’ not fair, neither is love.” She tilted her head slightly trying to look into his deep blue eyes.
“I don’t get it…” He stated with confusion. He scratched behind his ear as the wheels in his head turned trying to process what Olivia was saying.
“Right now you don’t have too. But, I bet Ryan does. I can look at them and see they love each other. Ryan’s, not going anywhere I guarantee you that.” She smiled as she continued to play in his hair. “And after what I saw tonight, he ain’t no punk,” She giggles, “He can handle Joel. He won’t let your brother walk all over him. Granted, he’ll let him vent, but he’ll stop him if he gets out of hand. Does he know about Jace?”
“That’s the part that scares me Olive, I don’t know. I’m sure by now Ryan told him. Well, I hope he did.”
“Wow…talk about shooting the messenger.” She laughed trying to lighten the mood.
“I know right…” Brye forced a smile
“What’s gonna happen with Jace?”
“Tank and the guys got him, and as crazy as it sounds I kinda feel sorry for him.” Brye admitted.
“Yeah, it does sound crazy, but Brye, Jace was just as upset as the rest of us. I don’t think he really meant to hurt Joel, not like this. You know?”
“I know, which is why it’s so sad. But he does have to pay for what he did to my brother.” Brye’s voice changed to one of conviction.
“Oh yeah, I agree he has to pay. But, the right way. Joel’s friends can’t go all vigilante on him. Tank almost killed him tonight …literally.” She pointed out.
“I know, when you told me Tank had Jace…wow.” Brye sighed thinking back to the scene he walked in on. “I thought he was dead. Tank and my brother are tight.”
“I can tell.” She admitted.
“No…what you saw tonight goes both ways, and has,” He added. “They just defend each other like that.”
“Yeah, I get it.” She said faintly, seeing the sadness in her boyfriend’s eyes. She wanted to comfort him; she wanted to show how much she cared. She inhaled deeply using her hand that was still tangled in his hair and slowly pulled him to her, placing her full soft lips against his.
He closed his eyes getting lost in the feel of her sweet kiss. He wrapped his arms around her waist lowering her back on the bed, never breaking for air. She moaned pulling him on top of her slipping one of her legs around his hips as they kissed fervently. Their bodies pressed together, grinding against each other, creating heated friction, getting out of control.
Olivia was lost in the moment, allowing Brye to work his hand up her shirt, caressing her supple breast, kissing her neck and shoulders, lulled in the sweetness of her alluring nectar.
He slid his hand under the elastic band of the lavender panties she was wearing. “Ahhh…” His breath hitched as his finger slipped inside her feeling the velvety soft, wetness he created. She sighed contently as she allowed his fingers to take her, touching her gently. Brye inserted another finger, using his thumb to stimulate her clitoris as he pressed his hard erection against her thigh.
“Uhmmm….Olivia moaned sweetly her hips swaying from side to side enjoying the feel of Brye’s fingers working inside, her and his hardness moving closer to her inner thigh. She forced her tongue deeper inside his mouth and moaned with pleasure.
“ Wait…“ She pulled away. But leaned forward and kissed him again desperately. She could feel her resolve weakening. It just felt so good. “Brye…” She panted for air. “Brye…stop.” She begged, she needed him to stop otherwise she would break her promise.
“Ohhhh…” He sighed continuing his subtle attack.
“Please….” She grabbed his hand pulling it out of her. “I can’t.” She whispered breathlessly.
“Olivia….” He objected rising off her. “Shit…” He ran his hand through is his hair in total frustration.
“I’m sorry.” She sighed heavily covering her face with her hands.
Brye sat up resting his hands in his lap. His breathing was slow and steady, as he willed his body to calm down.
“I’m sorry.” She said again resting her head against his back. “I just got carried away.”
“You think…” He laughed humorlessly. “Oh god I need to go.” He said attempting to stand up massaging his aching neck.
Olivia grabbed him by the arm, “No…don’t go.. Please stay.” Her emerald eyes pleaded.
He sighed, “I don’t think I can, not without wanting to be with you.”
“I know, and I want you too, but I promised myself I would wait.”
“I understand.” He said through a frustrated sigh. “You’re saving yourself. I get it.” He heaved a heavy sigh.
“Do you?” She asked.
“Yeah, I do. But I have to go home… take a cold shower. I’ll call you tomorrow.” He stood up once again.
“You promise? You’re not mad at me?”
He smiled as he kissed her on the forehead, “No, I’m not mad. Sexually frustrated.” He teased, “But not mad.”
“Well can I at least walk you to the door?”
“Sure…” he reached for her hand pulling her off the bed. She adjusted her panties and the oversized shirt she was wearing, combed her fingers through her natural curly hair, and lead him to the door.
“I’ll call you tomorrow.” He promised, kissing her.
“Okay…” She opened the door stepping aside allowing him to exit. She sighed as she closed the door behind him, falling back against it. She giggled nervously still feeling his fingers inside her.
Brye placed his fingers to his face inhaling her sweet lingering scent and smiled as he made his way to Joel’s jeep; which he had been driving since Joel was in the hospital.
Tank pulled the car on the side of the road and cut the engine.
“Wait…what are we doing here?” Jace asked sitting up looking out the window. “What’s going on?” He questioned in a panic, glancing around at his surroundings.
“Get out.” Tank demanded as he opened his door. Emmett, Jaxson, and Colin followed.
“Wait…wait, come on guys.” Jace said with trepidation in his voice, holding his hand tightly against his stomach.
Colin held the car door open and, with two fingers and a sly smile, motioned for Jace to exit.
“Hey, you need help?” Jaxson asked standing on the other side with his door opened as well. Tank and Emmett were already standing at the front of Tank’s black Dodge Charger engrossed in a deep conversation.
Jaxson and Colin helped Jace out of the car. Due to his injuries; it was a little difficult to manage on his own. They guided him to the front where Tank and Emmett were waiting. Jace eyed each one of them suspiciously trying to stand on his own, wondering what their next move would be.
He dared not look in Tank’s direction who was leaning back against the bumper of his car, one leg crossed over the other, and his arms crossed over his chest. Colin and Jaxson stood closer to Jace, one with his hands in his pocket and the other with his hands loosely on his waist.
Jace mustered up the courage to speak, “So what are you guys going to do…why we are here?” He questioned timidly.
Emmett was the first to respond. He nodded to Colin who now had Jace’s phone. He pulled it out of his pants pocket and handed to him.
“Well…you see Jace, what you did was bad…very bad.” He said playing with the buttons on Jace’s phone.
“But I –“
“Shut the fuck up and let him talk.” Tank interrupted rudely. Emmett reprimanded Tank with a stern look before turning his attention back to Jace.
“Now… as I was saying, what you did to our friend was raw, fucked up actually.”
“Yeah…” Jaxson agreed, his voice laced with contention.
“Colin here made a few calls on your phone.” Jace’s eye widened with fear, as he listened, still not daring to speak. “Got in touch with a certain person, who thought he was talking to you, and who at this moment is probably on his way out of dodge.” Jace smirked with a sigh of relief, but it faded when he saw Jaxson glared out of the corner of his eye.
“Especially whenyou told him how guilty you felt about everything and were going to the police and turn you both in.” Colin smiled spitefully.
“helloooo.” Tank gave an approving nod.
“You see, Colin made the call, but not before calling Uncle, Ted…Is it?”
“Yepp…” Colin confirmed, standing with his feet shoulder width apart and his arms crossed over his chest.
“So you see your partner in crime was not only dumb and stupid, but he was also on a three way call with Ted. He paused, “Lieutenant Ted Marshall of the CPD.”
“Huh?” Jace staggered.
Tank pushed himself off his car and stood in front of Jace, “Yeah and he was pretty pissed that you refuse to pay too.” He smirked.
“Not to worry…” Emmett nudged Tank aside taking the floor again. “We’re giving you a chance to decide your fate…right guys?”
“Yeah…” They all agreed.
“What’s my fate?” Jace asked worriedly, chewing nervously on his bottom lip.
“You actually have two choices; you pick what’s best for you.” Emmett nodded slowly making sure Jace understood him.
“See Lt. Marshall is standing right in that door.” He pointed back over his shoulder to the gray stone building, also known as the county jail. “So here’s your choice, you can either walk in there alone, introduce yourself to Ted, or choice number two,” He held up two fingers. “Have Tank here escort you.”
“Which, I’m more than happy to do.” Tank smiled menacingly, giving Jace two hard pats on the shoulder.
“You’re kidding right?” He asked eyeing each one of them individually.
“Does he look like he’s kidding?” Tank asked stepping up in Jace’s face.
"I don’t know, Joel. We might get caught.” Ryan lowered his head shyly still caressing Joel’s back.
“No we won’t just tell them I’m sleeping. I’m not do for my medicine for another,” He looked at the clock on the wall, “another two hours, so it’s okay.” He said running his tongue over his upper lip.” I really …really need you, I need to feel you Ryan, I feel so numb right now.”
Ryan nodded slowly understanding what Joel was expressing. “We don’t have protection.”
“Where’s my wallet?” Joel asked glancing around the room.
“In the drawer over there.”
“Cool…It’s like my American Express card; I don’t leave home without it.” Joel teased, trying to lighten the mood.
“Oh my god, you’re terrible…” Ryan smiled shaking his head.
“Come on.” Joel pushed himself off the floor, then extended his hand to help Ryan up.
“Okay you go tell them I’m sleeping. Go on.” Joel nodded toward the door.
Ryan nodded quickly and headed for the door.
“Wait…” Joel climbed in the bed. “Okay…” Ryan reached for the handle. “No wait…” Joel turned off the light. “Okay now go and hurry back, you don’t want to keep your man waiting.” He forced a sexy smile as he watched Ryan walk out the door.
Joel closed his eyes sighing heavily feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. He knew making love to Ryan was just a band-aid on a lifelong scare, a permanent wound that would mar his life forever, but he didn’t care.
He slipped out of his clothes and lay under the covers, his fingers laced behind his head, one leg crossed over the other in waiting.
He watched Ryan walk back in the room taking each step cautiously with a hint of uncertainly in his eyes. Ryan sighed, “Are you sure about this?”
Joel nodded, “Very sure. Take those off.” He gestured to Ryan’s clothing.
Ryan glanced back over his shoulder, biting nervously on his bottom lip, gathering the hem of his shirt in his fingers, slowing revealing his firm abdomen, then his chest, pulling his shirt over his head. Joel watched in anticipation, his body responding to the sight before him. Ryan dropped his shirt to the floor and slowly started to unbuckle his belt. He sighed feeling slightly apprehensive as he unbutton his jeans pulling them down past his hips, gazing lovingly into Joel’s intense blue eyes, willingly giving himself over to him.
Slowly padding over he removed his underwear and carefully stepped out of them. Joel positioned himself on his side and pulled the covers back welcoming Ryan into his bed
Joel reached over Ryan, as he snuggled his back against Joel’s chest, grabbing the remote control to adjust the volume on the television; just enough to drown out any sounds he or Ryan would make. He decided being on their side would be best just in case someone entered the room it would appear they were snuggling together watching T.V. under the covers.
Joel caressed Ryan’s body wrapping his arms around his chest, stroking the fine hair that lay perfectly against it with the tips of his fingers. He kissed the back and side of Ryan’s neck and shoulders, receiving an approving moan. Ryan tilted his head back slightly, allowing Joel’s tongue to tickle the outer shell of his ear, as Joel’s hand caressed his thigh, gently grazing his growing erection.
Ryan inhaled deeply, running his hand up behind Joel’s neck playing in his hair, kissing him hungrily on the side of his mouth, wanting so desperately to taste his lips. Ryan rolled over on his back briefly, impatiently pulling Joel’s face to his, kissing his mouth, forcing his tongue inside, his lips, and tongue demanding Joel’s attention.
Their bodies pressed firmly together, Joel pressing his swollen member against the side of Ryan’s hip enjoying the friction he was generating. Their kiss was anything but sweet; it was desperate. Joel needed to feel good, he needed the hurt and pain to go away.
He forced Ryan back on his side as he continued kissing and fondling him. He pushed Ryan’s leg forward bending it slightly, caressing his butt and inner thigh with the palm of his hand. Ryan’s body started to relax and his breathing was becoming shallow and sporadic as he felt Joel’s moist finger teasing his tight muscle.
He carefully pushed the tip of his finger inside, waiting patiently for Ryan’s body to adjust; still kissing the side of his neck, he pushed it in and out slowly adding another, preparing him. He felt Ryan’s body tense and quickly stopped.
“Easy baby…” He whispered, “Just relax Ryan.” He said lovingly kissing him behind the ear. Ryan tried to relax wrapping Joel’s free arm around him for a moment kissing his hand and fingers. He took a deep breath and released the tight hold he had on his arm and nodded slowly letting Joel know he was ready. Joel’s long fingers went deep inside Ryan, massaging the spot that almost sent Ryan over the edge. Using his own hand, Ryan pleasured himself stroking slowly and firmly from the base to the swollen head, using his pre-cum as a lubricant, keeping rhythm with Joel’s nimble fingers.
Ryan let out a whimper as he felt his body temperature rising. He relaxed his back into Joel’s chest stroking himself faster. He protested with a disapproving moan when Joel’s hand grabbed his without warning.
“No..no, Not yet, baby…slow down.” Joel laughed lightly as he carefully pulled his fingers from Ryan’s body. He pushed Ryan’s leg up a little further, placing the tip of his head at his entrance. His breathing became labored as he slowly pushed the head inside. He stayed still once again, kissing Ryan’s shoulder while whispering words of want into his ear, soothing him.
Ryan pushed back causing Joel to penetrate him deeper. The soft moans that escaped them were drowned out by the voices coming from the television. Joel started out slow and steady, picking up the pace as Ryan’s body demanded. Ryan swayed back and forth onto Joel’s hard member buried deeply, inside him pleasuring Joel, as he too was being pleasured.
Beads of perspiration covered Joel’s brow as his body took over, starting to come alive, starting to feel…he thrusted vigorously, going deeper, causing Ryan’s body to rock with every stoke, pushing his pelvis between Ryan’s legs sealing their bodies together perfectly.
Joel buried his face in Ryan’s hair as he felt his orgasm start to build. He felt a stirring within him as he continued his deep thrusts. The feeling was so intense as he reached the point of no return.
Ryan picked up where he left off with Joel’s hand wrapped around his own, stroking him… guiding them to pure satisfaction together.
Ryan buried his face in the pillow muffling his cries of unadulterated bliss, his cum erupting through the tiny slit at the head of his cock forcefully, causing every muscle in his body to rebel, covering his and Joel’s hand, and dripping on the sheets beneath them.
Ryan lost his breath when Joel slammed his body back against him. He fisted the sheets tightly as Joel went deeper and deeper, every stroke precise. With every thrust Joel felt a powerful release that he couldn’t control. He sucked feverishly on the back of Ryan’s neck, bruising him there to prevent himself from howling, feeling as if he would pass out from sheer ecstasy.
Their bodies rocked slowly fitting together like two halves of the same whole, both struggling to breathe.
“Thank you…” Joel panted still enjoying the natural high that was embracing him. “I love you.”
Ryan ran his hand through his damp hair still breathing heavily, “I love you too.” He laughed exhaustedly resting his head against Joel’s chest enjoying the shared experience, of their bodies merging as one.
Joel held Ryan tightly thinking this was what he needed, right here…right now. Trying to accept his fate, as you will, would not be easy, but the person who could help make everything easier by loving him, supporting him, was right where he needed him to be, laying in his arms. He kissed the top of Ryan’s head sighing a blissful sigh.
“Yeah man…” Jaxson laughed heartily, slapping himself on the knee as he wiped the tears from the corner of his eye. “You should have seen the look on his face. He was scared shitless.”
“Are you sure? Because, I could have sworn I smelled something foul coming from the back seat.” Tank laughed jokingly.
Jaxson and the guys were still pumped from the night with Jace. They came by to visit Joel, filling him in on their little “Sting Operation.”
“I mean, I felt just like I was in the fuckin Godfather or something, man.” He laughed. “Tank had the music blasting; it was dark and not many cars on the roads. It was all I could do to keep for laughing my ass off.” Jaxson recalled through laughter.
Colin let out an exasperated sigh, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling in amusement at the excitement in Jaxson’s voice as he relived that Hopeful night.
“He actually thought Tank was going to kill him.” Emmett added laughing into his fist.
“I was…” Tank stated emphatically eyeing Emmett, “While you’re bull shittin.” He rolled his eyes as he leaned back against the wall.
“Wow…” Joel nodded, still not believing Jace would do something so drastic…so desperate. He found his mind drifting, not even hearing the conversation going on around him. He smiled every so often pretending to listen, but his smile soon faded as reality hit him. Sure, he had great friends, and thought it was amazing that they could come up with such a plan, a plan that could have easily failed, but they were willing to try it anyway. Truth was, as much as he appreciated it, it still didn’t change things. He still would never be able to play football again. He made Ryan and his family a promise. As far as he was concerned, football would never be an option for him. He knew in his heart he was lying to them, but a promise is a promise and this was one he planned to keep, even if it killed him inside.
“Oh yeah…” Joel smiled dismissing the thought, bringing himself back into the conversation.
“Hell yeah…” Jaxson laughed unaware Joel didn’t even know what they were talking about.
“So…um, what happens now?” Joel asked looking around the room at his friends.
“Well…” Colin spoke up, “He’s going to do some time. How much I don’t know.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s his first offense. But he is kicked out of school effective immediately.”
Joel sighed shaking his head. “I just don’t believe it.” He stated sadly.
“I know man,” Emmett agreed, “But everything is going to be alright.” He said encouragingly patting Joel on the leg.
“So…” Tank took a deep breath looking around the hospital room. “When do you get out of here?” He asked changing the subject.
“Doctor Levy came by this morning, and said he was releasing me today.” Joel smiled nodding slowly.
“Really…cool,” Colin said with excitement in his voice.
“I know and not soon enough for me.” Joel admitted through a light chuckle.
“I bet Ryan’s happy. That guy has been spending everyday here since they brought you in.” Jaxson commented, then drew his brows together, tilting his head slightly. “I need me a Ryan.” He laughed teasingly.
“Yeah, he got any sisters?” Tank asked jokingly.
“Yes, he does actually. But you could go to jail for that.” Joel teased.
“Nawh, I’m not about to do any time for some shit like that.” Tank waved him off dismissively. “I need a real woman.”
“Hey, where is Ryan anyway?” Emmett asked curiously.
“He had an exam this afternoon and a swim meet.” Joel informed them holding his head up high, feeling proud of his boyfriend.
“Oh Yeah…” Colin was about to ask Joel a question when the door to Joel’s room opened and Nurse Durham walked in getting everyone’s attention.
“Okay boys, times up.” She informed them glancing around the room. Nurse Durham was a portly little woman in her mid fifties, her gray hair, she wore pulled up in a neat bun. She was the charge nurse on the floor Joel was assigned to.
The guys didn’t buck her as they did the other nurses. They knew better. All it took was one time, and they knew she meant business, especially when she grabbed Jaxson by the ear and escorted him out of the room a few days prior. They kindly said their good byes’ to Joel, nodded to nurse Durham respectfully and made their exit quiet and orderly. She smiled with her hands on her hips watching them leave, closing the door behind.
“You have some nice friends, Joel.” She said as she picked up his chart. “Sooo… I hear you’re going home today.” She stated with enthusiasm lacing her voice.
“Yepp, that’s what Dr. Levy said this morning.” Joel advises her as he watched her flip through his chart.
“Good, I bet you’re ready to go home. ‘ Ahhh…’” She opened her mouth wanting Joel to mimic her as she held the thermometer up placing it under his tongue. She placed her thumb on his wrist, checking her watch as she monitored his pulse. Joel sat patiently waiting. She sighed as she made notes in his chart before pulling the thermometer from under his tongue, checking it closely.
“Well…” Joel inquired hopeful.
“Everything looks fine Joel.” She placed the blood pressure cuff on his arm and pumped the little black ball tightening the sleeve. “She laughed shaking her head fondly.
“What?” Joel asked as she pulled the Velcro band from around his arm.
“I was just thinking. We’re going to miss you around here.” She admitted folding the instrument and placing it back in its case.
“Really?” Joel asked incredulously. “Me…why?” He asked with one brow raised.
“Are you serious…you’re a celebrity around here.” She laughed as she made notes in his chart.
“A celebrity…Me?” He drew his brows together slightly confused.
“Yes you.” She teased. “Not to mention all the ruckus your friends caused.” She added, “But I can tell they’re good kids.”
“Yeah…” Joel agreed, thinking how lucky he was to have friends like them.
“Oh and that cute little, Ryan, he’s a nice fella.” She smiled fondly. “Joel, can I ask a favor of you?” She asked, her voice taking on a more serious tone.
Nurse Durham sat down on the chair by the bed. “Now, you can say no if you want, but we have a patient on the children’s cancer floor and he is a huge fan of number 21. And we were all talking and wondered if you would go pay him a visit before you go home. He was in remission and his cancer is back, and it would really make his day if you went by and saw him”
“Of course I will, when?” Joel asked eagerly.
“Right now, if it’s okay.”
“Let’s go.” Joel said getting out of bed. He slipped on his slippers, and adjusted his clothing, checking himself out in the mirror while musing his hair with his fingers. “Okay, I’m ready.” He smiled.
Nurse Durham placed her hand on Joel’s shoulder and smiled sincerely, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, I’m happy to do it.” He replied genuinely.
Once they stepped off the elevator all eyes were on the tall brunette and nurse Durham. You could hear a pin drop. The nurses at the nurse’s station all stopped what they were doing, so did the patients and their family member littering the lobby and hallways.
Whispers and nods confirming it was indeed, Joel Masterson number 21 could be heard as he passed them. Nurse Durham walked proudly as she escorted Joel down the hall. He noticed the children’s floor was much more cheerful. The walls were brightly painted in a rainbow of colors with cartoon characters on each patient’s door and big elephant foot prints on the floor guiding you down the corridors.
“Hey Joel Masterson…Right.” A young man wearing a red cubs baseball cap called out.
“Hey man what’s up?” Joel nodded with a smile.
“That was a hell of a game against IU. How you feeling man…that was some hell of a hit.” He asked excitedly yet with concern.
“Um… hey.” The young man stalled. “Can I get a picture?” He asked pulling his phone from his pocket.
“Yeah…sure.” Joel readily agreed.
He handed nurse Durham his phone. “You mind?”
“No…not at all. How do you use this?” She asked examining his phone.
“Just hold it up and press the button in the back.” He said excitedly as he placed one arm on Joel’s shoulder and the other on his own hip with a huge grin.
“Okay…hold still. Say cheese.”
“Cheese…” they both laughed. Nurse Durham snapped the picture, handed him back his phone watching as he reviewed it.
“It’s okay?” Joel asked.
“Perfect…thanks man.” He said shaking Joel’s hand. “I can’t believe this.” He laughed examining the picture. He glanced up still preoccupied and smiled, “See you on the field, man. Oh and thanks again.” He said holding up his phone as he punched in a number. Joel and Nurse Durham laughed as he walked down the hall talking on his phone. “Yeah, man, Joel Masterson.” He laughed into the phone. “Yeah and I got proof…yeah… hang up and I’ll send it to you.” He laughed as he turned the corner.
Joel nodded and smiled graciously as he disappeared from his view, his voice still echoing down the corridor. He knew the young stranger in the cubs cap would find out soon enough.
“Okay, let’s go see Corey.” Nurse Durham motioned for him to follow her as she led him to room 314. The door was opened slightly and Joel could see little Corey sitting on his bed. He was so engrossed in the game he was playing he didn’t notice the Running Back enter his room. The woman sitting on the chair next to his bed gasped silently with a huge smile on her face. Joel assumed it was Corey’s mother. She glanced to the little boy then back to Joel and nodded approvingly.
Joel gave her a quick wave as he tipped toed over to Corey. Nurse Durham stood quietly by the door observing with her fingers laced together resting her hands on her round belly.
“Hey Corey.” Joel ducked his head shyly as he stepped closer to the bed. Corey glanced up, his eyes wide as saucers and his mouth a gaped in awe.
“Oh My God...MOM!” He squealed with excitement tapping his mother on the shoulder, never taking his eyes off Joel hoping this was not a dream.
“I see…I see son.” She giggled holding her hand to her chest.
“Hey…” Joel laughed watching the shocked expression on Corey’s face. Corey looked to be about ten years old. His head was bald from the chemo, and his eyes were dark as coals. His skin was pasty white, except for the black and blue bruises on his arm from where the IV’s were hooked in, but that didn’t deflect from the sparkle in his eyes.
“Um…hell…hello.” He stammered, through a cheeky grin.
“What you got there?” Joel nodded to the game in his hands.
“Corey’s mom stood up, “Please sit down.” She requested giving up her chair.
“No, that’s okay.” Joel smiled shaking his head.
“I insist.” She reached for his hand, taking it into hers. She mouthed, “Thank you.”
Joel nodded giving her a hug before taking his seat.
“It’s Madden’s NCAA Football 10.” He replied excitement still evident in his tone.
“Oh…yeah.” Joel smiled leaning over to get a better view. “Who’s your favorite team?”
“Are you kidding me? North Western of course.” He laughed. “Wanna play?” He nodded eagerly.
“Sure…Can I play as myself?”
“Nawh…That’s my player, but you can pick another one.”
“Awww…okay.” Joel pouted pretending to be disappointed. Nurse Durham and Corey’s mom watched with tears in their eyes as Joel and his new pal engaged in an aggressive game of football.
They didn’t know where the time went. It wasn’t until the soothing voice of the young nurse interrupted them.
“Corey it’s time for your treatments.”
“Awww…right now, but we’re in the middle of our third game…And I’m winning.” He protested.
“Come on little buddy, you have to listen to the nurse. They’re only doing what’s best for you. And you do want to get better don’t you?” He eyed Corey kindly, patting him on the shoulder.
“Okay…” Corey conceded sitting the game in his lap, his shoulders slumped, his head hanging low.
“It’s okay.” Joel lifted his chin lowering his head trying to make eye contact with him. “I really had fun. But I have to ask you; don’t brag too much about beating me.” Joel teased….
“Okay.” Corey’s eye lit up again. “Mom?” He nodded to the football sitting in the corner. She handed him his most prized possession. “Um…Will you?” He asked his eyes full of hope as he held out the football.
“It would be an honor.” Nurse Durham pulled a black marker from her pocket; handed it to Joel and stepped back humbly. They watched wondering what Joel was writing; it was obvious it was more than just his name.
Joel scribbled one last thing before tossing it back to Corey. He smiled as Corey caught it at his chest with both hands. Corey read the signature, his mouth widen with surprise.
“Really?” He looks up in wonderment.
“Yepp.” Joel smiled pressing his lips tightly together.
“What’s it say son?” Corey’s mom asked leaning over to read it.
“It says…‘To Corey, the #1 NCAA draft pick of the future…Joel Masterson.’” He read with a bright smile on his face.
“Again thank you so much, it really means a lot.” Corey’s mom said giving Joel another hug.
“You’re welcome…Bye Corey.” Joel waved as he and nurse Durham turned to leave.
“Bye Joel.” Corey waved as the nurse helped him out of bed and into his wheel chair.
Joel had his arms crossed in front of him as they waited quietly for the elevator. Joel sighed thoughtfully chewing on the inside of cheek, before breaking the silence.
“Thank you.” He said still looking straight ahead.
“You’re welcome.” She smiled, not diverting her gaze from the elevator. She knew what Joel was thanking her for, though; it appeared this visit was for Corey, it was for Joel too. Nurse Durham was aware of Joel’s situation. She figured it had been hard on him. But if he could see that he was not the only one going through something, maybe just maybe he could find a sense of peace. He might not be able to play football anymore, but he was indeed the lucky one, he was going home today unlike little Corey who would now call Chicago Memorial home.
Joel was busily gathering his things together waiting for his parents to pick him up. The doctor had just released him giving his instructions for home care when he heard a tap at the door.
“Oh…” He looked up in surprise, “Coach Jackson…hey.” He smiled kindly.
“Masterson…” He nodded as he stepped into the room, gripping his cap in his hand tightly with a manila folder tucked under his arm. He glanced around noticing Joel was packing up his things. “Looks like you’re heading out.” He observed.
“Yeah, and not a moment too soon,” Joel laughed. “My parents are on their way.”
“Hummm…May I?” Coach Jackson nodded to the empty chair located next to window.”
“Sure…” Joel replied as he continued to pack up his school books, Ryan brought him. Once he came out of the coma, he got back to his schoolwork right away. The teachers would send Joel his assignments, and Jaxson brought him his laptop that way he could access the homework hotline if he needed, not to mention do his homework and email certain assignments to his teachers.
“So…how are you feeling?” The coach asked wringing his cap in his hands nervously.
“Good…good, the headaches are becoming less frequent. “ Joel admitted as he zipped up his messenger bag.
“You know Masterson; you got a pretty raw deal.” He said sadly.
“Yeah…” Joel sighed, dropping down on the bed. He placed his hands in his lap. He tried not to think about it most of the time and his friends and family made it a point not to bring it up.
“You know, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.” He nodded trying to make eye contact with Joel.
“I guess…” Joel shrugged.
“Sometime we might not see it, or understand it, but we should never question it.”
Joel laughed humorlessly, “Well I don’t understand it and I do question it.” He admitted honestly.
“I know son.” Coach Jackson smiled. “You know Joel; you have been on my mind since this travesty began. I have to admit I was surprised that boy turned himself in.”
Joel smiled, because he knew the truth... “Yeah…” He laughed.
“Anyway Joel, the reason I’m here is to ask you a favor.” He said pulling the folder from under his arm.
“Sure…” Joel replied thinking this must be the day for favors.
“I wanted to drop these plays off to you. I wanted you to look over them; it’s for our next game against Ohio.” He said scratching his head as he handed Joel the folder.
Joel took the folder from his hand and flipped through the pages. “Why…You know I can’t play anymore.” He said still scanning the folder.
“I know...I know. Joel you were, ARE.” He corrected himself, “The best Running Back I have ever had the honor of coaching. You know that position like the back of your hand. I mean.” He shook his head in amazement. “It’s like you invented it.”
Joel smiled still confused at what the coach was wanting. “Thanks, but what are you asking?”
Coach Jackson sighed, hitting his cap on his knee. “I want you to assist Coach Howard on the offensive line.”
“Yes…son you may not be able to run that ball, but you sure in the hell can teach them how to do it.”
Joel stood motionless, wondering if he heard the coach correctly. So are you saying you want me on the team?”
“No…not on the team, coaching the team. Now you won’t be paid, but you will receive credit for it, not to mention, I’ve received a few calls from some of the teams that were looking at you son. And my dream is to be working beside you one day or against you.” He gave Joel a quick wink.
“Okay…okay, sure.” Joel grinned from ear to ear.
“So…when do you head back to class?” The coach asked.
“That’s the plan.” Joel confirmed.
“Good.” Coach Jackson stood up placing his cap on his head. “See you after class. And son I’m gonna need you to have gone over those plays,” he nodded to the folder, the game is a week from Saturday”
“Sure thing, you can count on me coach.”
“I know I can.” Coach Jackson nodded as he headed for the door.
“It feels so good to be back.” Joel smiled.
“Back…Masterson, you never left.” The coached called back over his shoulder as he excited the room.
Joel laughed, feeling an overwhelming sense of joy. He held the folder tightly against his chest and sighed.
Joel and Mitch sat in the corner of Joel and Jaxson’s dorm. Mitch was reviewing the folder coach Jackson left Joel, while he watched his mom busily move about the room. She was changing his sheets with new ones she brought. He offered to help, but his request was denied.
“Let her do this son.” Mitch whispered in his ear, “This is her time to be motherly. She misses it now that you boys are all grown up.”
Janice bought Joel new sheets, a basket full of organic fruit and a fifty-dollar ITunes card.
“So what are you going to get into today?” Mitch asked as he watched his wife stuffing pillows into the pillowcases.
“He’s going to rest.” Janice answered matter of factly. “Right son?” She eyed him from across the room as she adjusted the pillows on the bed.
“Right mom….” Joel sighed. Then added. “I was thinking about finding Ryan and surprising him. Maybe take him out to dinner.”
“That would be nice. Give him some money Mitch.”
“Mom…” Joel protested, “I have money.”
“Well you do have something to celebrate; I mean this is really cool.” He nodded to the folder he just placed on the bed as he pulled out his wallet. He leafed through the bills handing Joel three crisp twenties. “Will this be enough?” He questioned.
“Dad…” Joel sighed.
“Take the money son.” Janice said sweetly smoothing out the sheets.
“Take it…you know your mother.” He whispered in Joel’s ear, stuffing the money into Joel’s hand.
“Thanks…” He sighed reluctantly, placing the money in his pocket.
“Come on Sweets, we need to be heading back, I want to beat the traffic. Plus I have a meeting with the Buyers this afternoon.” Mitch said as he stood up placing his hands in the pocket of his jeans. Joel did the same, resting his hand on his father’s shoulder.
“Thanks for everything you guys.”
“No problem.” Janice smiled, using the back of her hand to remove the stray strains of hair from her eyes. She wrapped her arms around her son’s neck; standing on the tips of her toes, she kissed him on the cheek. “Oh…” She snapped her fingers, “don’t forget to invite Ryan and his parents to our house for either Christmas or Thanksgiving, either one.”
“Mom…Ryan has a pretty large family and they have a tradition. I’m not sure they are going to want to give that up, for “Tu-Furkey.” Joel teased.
“Don’t be silly.” She giggled slapping Joel across the chest.
“Owww…” Joel pouted.
“Your dad will order a real turkey from the market. I know people like their traditions. And I promise to be good and not ‘police’ everyone.” She smirked. “I just want to meet them. Their son is an important part of My son’s life, and that means a lot to me.”
“I’ll ask.” He promised, kissing his mom tenderly on the forehead.
“Okay son. If you need anything just call me. Oh and tell Brye to call I have something for him.”
“Will do. Thanks dad.”
Joel walked his parents to the door and waved good-bye. He glanced at the clock over his desk noticing the time. He had at least two hours before Ryan was out of swim practice. He set his alarm to wake him giving himself enough time to meet Ryan right when he got out.
Joel walked across the campus observing everything. For some reason it all felt different somehow… larger, or maybe he just felt incredibly small. Nothing had changed on the outer exterior. He still received the same warm greetings, high fives, and pats on the back, but he couldn’t help but wonder who all knew and would they still treat him the same once they found out.
He sighed shoving his hands deeper into the pocket of his jeans thinking back to his visit with Corey. He would always remember that. He learned something today. He was indeed blessed. Though there was this monster inside his brain that would be with him forever, it would not ruin his life, he was determined not to let that happen. Life was a precious give to be cherished and enjoyed and that’s what he was going to do.
He sat on the bench across from the Natatorium waiting for Ryan. He couldn’t wait to share the news about his day. He smiled sitting up straight as he noticed Ryan and his teammates exit the building. He knitted his brows together with a look of confusion, and his smile slowly faded when he noticed a taller guy walking Ryan out of the building.
The fact that he was walking with Ryan was not the problem, the problem was, he had his hand on Ryan’s shoulder caressing the lower part of his neck. Joel stood to his feet quickly, almost breaking his neck walking briskly toward Ryan and the handsome young man.
Joel raised his brow giving Ryan a quick nod, “Hey Ryan.” He greeted forcing a smile.
“Joel!” Ryan’s eyes widen with surprise and a huge smile crossed his lips. “Why didn’t you tell me you were getting out of the hospital today?” He asked excitedly as he wrapped his arm around Joel's neck pulling their bodies together.
“I knew you were busy today. And I wanted to surprise you.” He answered locking his gaze on the young man that stood in the background combing his fingers through his damp dark hair.
“Oh…I’m sorry.” Ryan smiled looking back over his shoulder at Alec. “Joel this is Alec. Alec this is my boyfriend Joel.”
“Hey man, nice to meet you.” Alec extended his hand to shake Joel’s.
“Yeah…” Joel said sizing Alec up. “You too.”
“Um…Ryan, I think I’m going to get going.” He cleared his throat feeling an uncomfortable vibe.
“Okay…Oh and Alec thanks for the massage it really did help.”
“Massage?” Joel repeated incredulously, glaring at Alec.
“No…no, not like that.” Alec held his hands up defensively.
“Then like what?” Joel asked wrapping his arms around Ryan’s waist pulling him close.
“Oh…” Ryan laughed sensing the contention in his boyfriend’s voice. “Alec was showing me a stroke I could use that wouldn’t put so much stress on this muscle.” He said placing his hand on Joel’s shoulder imitating Alec’s move.
“Yeah man that’s it.” Alec agreed. “Anyway. It was nice meeting you.” He said with apprehension in his voice.
“Yeah…” Joel nodded softening his expression, pressing his lips together tightly.
“See you around Ryan.” He waved as he headed off in the direction of the dorms. Joel watched him suspiciously until he was out of his view.
“So…” Ryan took Joel’s hand into his lacing their fingers together. “You should have called me; I would have come to the hospital.”
“It’s okay my mom and dad were there.” He said still looking toward the dorms. “Does he always do that?”
“That? Having his hands all over you.”
“You mean Alec?”
“Yes…yes I mean Alec.” Joel replied in a slightly elevated tone.
“Well, no…and he didn’t have his hands all over me Joel.” Ryan defended.
“I don’t like it.”
“Like what?” Ryan challenged crossing his arms over his chest.
“Another guy touching you, that’s all.”
“Oh.My.God.” Ryan laughed.
“It’s not funny.” Joel said with irritation in his voice.
“Yes it is. Joel you of all people can’t be jealous.”
“I’m not jealous.” Joel answered defensively.
“Well I sure hope not, because you are in no position to talk young man.” Ryan said shaking finger at Joel reprimanding him. “You have guys and girls all over you all the damn time and I have to deal with it, so don’t come at me like that.” He pointed out only half teasing.
“No you don’t…not any more baby.” Joel turned to face Ryan, taking him into his arms. “I love you and I respect you and your feelings…Okay?” He tilted his head slightly locking gazes with Ryan lovingly.
“I love you too Joel.” Ryan smiled bringing his face closer to Joel’s allowing their lips to touch briefly. “I’m so glad to see you." Ryan said cheerfully as he and Joel walked across the campus hand in hand.
“But come on Joel, admit it, you were jealous.” He teased nudging Joel’s shoulder with his as they walked.
“No I wasn’t.” Joel laughed. “Okay…maybe a little.” He conceded holding up his thumb and forefinger.
“My grandmother always said, ‘It ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun.” Ryan laughed as they walked toward the dorms.
Joel laughed shaking his head, “Wow…I like that, so are you the rabbit?”
“Yes Joel…I’m the rabbit.” Ryan laughed as he tightened their grasp.
“I see…well Mr. Rabbit, wanna go back to my place? I got some new sheets we can break in.”
“Hell yeah, I’m in…crisp new sheets too.” Ryan nodded eagerly…”What about Jaxson?”
“If he’s there we can kick him out. Give him some money. Tell him to go have a coke and a smile. " Joel laughed. "And if you’re really good I’ll buy you dinner.” Joel winked sexily squeezing Ryan tightly around the waist.
“What do you mean, I’m always good.” Ryan retorted jokingly. “And you will buy me dinner.” Ryan smiled a toothy grin
“Damn right, and all mine too.” They walked into the bright sunlight allowing the sun’s rays to bathe their bodies feeling happier then they had been in a long time. They could finally breathe and it felt good…Life was good.
It had been two months since Joel got out of the hospital. The trees were bare of their foliage and winter was about to set in. Many students had already left school heading home for their winter break, to spend time with their loved ones.
Joel had one more game to assist in coaching before he could leave so Ryan decided to stay with him. Joel’s parents were coming up for the game and would take Brye back with them, while Joel would drive Ryan to his hometown, stay a few nights with his family and be home by Christmas.
Thanksgiving was perfect. Ryan’s parents, his brother and sisters spent the day with Joel’s family. Ryan was surprised to see Joel had just about as many family members as he did. Mitch’s brother, Robert was a hoot and kept everyone laughing the whole day. Janice kept her promise and laid out a big fest. There was turkey and dressing and a Tu-Furkey, Mashed potatoes, broccoli, green bean casserole, salad, macaroni and cheese, and dirty rice made with real crabmeat, not liver. Along with all the sweets, you could name.
Janice and Barbara hit it off perfectly as if they had known each other for years. Brye skipped out early after dinner in order to spend time with Olivia and her family. Her father was one of the few that made it home for the Thanksgiving Holiday and she wanted to show off her boyfriend.
“Wow…” Brye sighed in amazement as he folder his shirts, packing them in his suitcase. “I can’t believe it’s our winter break already.”
“I know, it seemed to go so fast, I mean with Joel getting hurt, the stuff with Jace, man that was a nightmare.” Ryan took a deep breath, “But we made it.” He nodded as he gathered his toiletries together placing them in his bag.
“Yepp, we sure did.” Brye replied thoughtfully. “I knew you would be perfect for him when I met you…Well after I confirmed you were gay.” He snickered.
“Nooo...really?” Ryan questioned curiously.
“Yeah man, seriously. I’m a pretty good judge of character.” He complimented his talents.
“Oh yeah you should have seen your face when Joel walked into our dorm that night.”
“Shut up…” Ryan laughed tossing a pair of rolled up socks at his roommate.
“Hey…” Brye ducked. “I hope those were clean.” He laughed referring to the socks that landed on his bed.
“Well you found love too.” Ryan smiled. “Olivia is a great girl. And she really cares about you.”
“Yeah…” Brye said with a faraway look in his eyes. “You know.” He sat down on his bed. “I think I might love her a little.” He nodded.
“Oh boy the “L” word.” Ryan sat down on his bed across from his best friend. “That’s a big word you know.” Ryan teased.
“I said might.”
“Awww…come on Brye admit it, its okay.” Ryan tilted his head slightly trying to make eye contact. He waited for a reply bobbing his head.
“What?” Brye leaned back away from Ryan.
“I know you love her.” Ryan said with a huge grin. “ Want to know how I know?”
“You’re gonna tell me anyway, so go ahead.” Brye sighed rolling his eyes toward the ceiling.
“Remember our Pact. To have sex before our winter break.”
“How can I forget, you and Joel are screwing like bunnies.” Brye said shaking his head pretending to be upset.
“No... Well…Um… never mind about Joel and me. I’m talking about you.” Ryan eyed him with amusement. “You knew Olivia wasn’t coming off the goods and you’re still with her.” Ryan pointed out, “It must be love.” He smiled.
“Maybe my ass…just admit it, you’ll feel so much better.”
“I feel fine.” Brye frowned. “And who are you? Dr. Phil or something?”
“Dr. Smith to you.” Ryan teased, shaking his finger at his roommate.
“Whatever dude.” Brye dismissed Ryan as he continued to pack.
“The game was great.” Ryan mentioned changing the subject.
“Yeah it was.” Brye said in awe. “I can’t believe they honored Joel that way during halftime. Hell I was about to cry.” Brye admitted. “My mom was a mess, Olivia, and dad was a mess, hell we all were a mess.”
“Me too.” Ryan sighed. “He deserved it. He’s a good guy. I love him so much.” Ryan said his tone full of love and admiration.
“Yeah…he loves you two. See I knew what I was doing.” Brye said blowing on his fist before rubbing it against his chest, proudly.
“Yeah,” Ryan nodded reflecting back to his and Joel’s first meeting. “Thank you Brye.”
“You’re welcome. You know without being all sappy, I just want you to know I’m happy we met this year. With all the horror stories, about the roommates from hell, not only did I find a great roommate, but I found a best friend.”
Ryan smiled, “Yeah…I feel the same way. I didn’t know what to expect either, but you made the transition easy for me. You welcomed me and I consider you my best friend, even though you tried to sell me out.” Ryan teased.
“Damn, you’re never gonna let me live that down are you?”
“Are you kidding," Ryan laughed, "that’s going down in the record books. That’s classic. I’ll be telling your kids and grand kids about that one dude.”
“Jeeze…” Brye sighed dragging his suitcase off the bed. “We better get going. Before Mom sends up Joel, worse yet before she comes up herself.” He laughed.
“Yeah…You got everything?” Ryan asked, throwing his backpack over his shoulder. He glanced around the room giving it a once over. He smiled looking at the space where Rihanna’s poster used to be remembering the night he helped Brye put it up and laughed silently.
“Yeah…he loves her.” Ryan said in an undertone.
“Huh?” Brye said as he opened the door ushering Ryan to go first.
“Oh…nothing.” Ryan laughed turning out the light. He glanced over his shoulder once more fondly, before closing and locking the door behind them.
The room was quiet and still, with just a hint of the sun’s rays shining from the east through opened blinds. It was 8AM on a cool Thanksgiving morning and Ryan and Joel were coming out of the bathroom, their towels draped around the waist after showering together.
“Owww…Oops…shit.” Ryan stumbled into Joel’s back to prevent himself from falling.
The sudden jolt took Joel by surprise, “Hey…are you okay?” He asked with concern reaching behind him to prevent Ryan’s fall.
“Shhh…” Ryan whispered, placing his finger to his lips. Joel sighed rolling his eyes slightly frustrated as he adjusted his towel tighter around his waist. Ryan kissed him on the shoulder as he walked past him over to the dresser.
“You know Ryan this is getting ridiculous.” Joel said in a hushed tone nodding toward the bed. He stood with his arms crossed over his bare chest; his feet shoulder width apart shaking his head. His hair was still wet dripping beads of water into his eyes.
“I know…I know.” Ryan agreed his back toward Joel, as he looked through the drawer to find him and Joel a fresh pair of underwear. He pulled out two pairs, tossing one to Joel before closing the drawer quietly.
“Thanks…” Joel said in a normal tone, catching the article of clothing.
“Shhh….” Ryan shrieked drawing his shoulders up to his ears. “You’re gonna wake her up.” He whispered anxiously. Both he and Joel glanced over to their bed where their two-year-old daughter was sleeping soundly, sucking viciously on her pacifier causing it to make a squeaking sound with each suck.
Nuri lay on her back wearing a pink tee shirt and a pull up, her head resting on their pillow, like the queen she was on her fathers’ bed. Nuri…meaning light, in Arabic. She, was named by her grandmother Janice. She took one look at her the day she was born, and said she would indeed be the light of the world; after all, she was already the light in grand pa Mitch’s eye. She looked like her daddy, Joel. Her hair was course, black and full of curls that were already caressing her tender shoulders. Her eyes were a deep blue that would melt the coldest of hearts.
“Ryan, she’s been sleeping with us for three weeks now. She needs to go back in her own bed. I mean come on.” Joel pleaded while towel drying his hair.
“I know Joel.” Ryan sighed, “But she either cries or calls me all night when I put her in there.” He replied as he pulled up his underwear, gazing at his sleeping angel. “ And with you being out of town, I couldn’t get any sleep.”
“She’s spoiled…” Joel replied, pulling a shirt off the hanger. "And I've been home for the last three weeks Ryan." He stressed.
“But she’s a good baby.” Ryan defended with a shy smile.
“A good spoiled baby.” Joel laughed as he pulled his shirt over his head. “You know Ryan I’m all down for good clean morning sex, but this sex in the bathroom all the time can be a bit tiring. I mean I almost broke my back last week trying to hold you up, keep us from falling and breaking both our ass’s.” He laughed.
“I know.” Ryan nodded pressing his lips together tightly. Ryan had awakened Joel this morning with kisses, seducing him, sliding his hand under the elastic waistband caressing Joel’s morning erection. He was feeling amorous and wanted to make love with his husband before he left for the day, so he dragged him into the bathroom to keep from waking the baby. Their morning romp in the shower left Ryan feeling completely satisfied.
Ryan tried to suppress his laughter and sound sincere. “I know baby.” He pouted sympathetically as he padded over to his husband. “But I’ve noticed you’re shoulders are more defined.” He gazed deeply into his husband’s eyes caressing Joel’s muscular arm.
“Funny, Ryan.” Joel sighed dryly as he sidestepped Ryan, pushing him out of his way.
“I’m serious.” Ryan laughed walking up behind him. He wrapped his arms around Joel’s waist resting his head against his back enjoying the feel of his muscles flexing through the cotton fabric as Joel tucked the white polo styled jersey into his khaki pants.
“You think dad and Robert are up.” Joel asked as he buckled his belt before turning to kiss Ryan on the mouth.
“Mmmm…” Ryan moaned in approval. “I think I heard them in the kitchen. You know my dad; he gets up at the crack of dawn thirty.” He yawned scratching the top of his head. “I think I’m gonna go back to bed.” He said trying to stifle a second yawn.
“Yeah…get some rest baby.” Joel smiled lovingly caressing Ryan’s cheek.
“Let me go get these guys, so we can get out of here.”
“I think Brye might be still sleep.” Ryan stated as he climbed back into bed next to his little girl. “He was pretty wasted last night.”
“Yeah he was.” Joel laughed. “I had fun. It was nice to get out with family and friends again.” Joel said fondly as he picked up his cap.
Ryan climbed back in bed pulling the covers over him and Nuri making sure she was nice and warm. “I know. I had a blast.” Ryan sighed as he rested his tired head comfortably on his pillow.
They didn’t get home until three this morning. Janice, Mitch, Robert, Barbara, and the kids arrived on Tuesday. They rented a luxury passenger van and decided to drive in together, while Brye, Olivia and their three-month-old son Ryder flew in from New York yesterday.
The family decided to spend Thanksgiving with Ryan and Joel in Indianapolis this year. Last night they all went out for a night on the town, leaving the grandparents and younger ones at home watching movies they rented from the local video store and babysitting.
“It was really nice seeing Emmett again.” Ryan said snuggling under the covers.
“I know, I can’t believe, Emmett in a Rock Band.” Joel said with disbelief.
“Yeah, they were pretty good too.”
“I can’t wait for Jaxson and Tank to get in tonight and take them downtown to see him. It’s going to be just like old times.” Joel smiled with a faraway look in his eyes.
“DADDY…DADDY!” A small, yet high-pitched voice filled with excitement interrupted the moment.
“Shhh…” Both Ryan and Joel said frantically placing their fingers to their lips... Joel laughed shaking his head while Ryan tried to cover the baby’s ears.
“Oops….” Little Corey giggled covering his mouth with his hand. Joel and Ryan agreed to name their five-year-old son after Corey White, the little boy Joel met while in the hospital several years ago. He had a profound impact on Joel’s life that day and he always wanted to remember him.
Corey stood proudly wearing a pair of dark blue jeans that were an inch and a half too short, and a slightly wrinkled with long sleeved white dress shirt that was a tad too small sporting a toothless grin, his long brown bangs falling messily in his light brown eyes.
Joel pressed his lips together tightly suppressing a laugh while his husband sat straight faced looking on.
“Okaay…” Ryan sighed.
“Ahem….” Joel cleared his throat squatting down eye level with his son. “Corey, who got you dressed this morning?”
“Me…” He answered proudly pointing to himself.
“And where did you get these clothes?” Joel asked nodding to his son’s unique attire.
“Out of the box in my room.”
“Box?” Joel knitted his brows together curiously.
“That would be the box I’m taking to Good Will next week.” Ryan mentioned with an exasperated sigh.
Corey nodded excitedly. “Yeah…” He grinned shoving his hand in the pocket of his jeans proudly.
“I see.” Joel placed his hand on his son’s shoulders. “How about you and I go find you something else to wear, and put these.” Joel said referring to the clothes his son was currently wearing, “back in the box…Okay?”
“Oh…Okay.” Corey pouted.
“No…no.” Joel soothed, sensing the disappointment in Corey’s voice. “You did great. It’s just your dad is giving these away.”
“Oh no, these are my clothes. He can’t give them away.” Corey challenged.
“Well, let me see.” Joel ran his finger under his chin thoughtfully. Ryan watched on admiringly. He loved seeing Joel match wits with his children. He dealt with them as if they were little adults, even Nuri. He was such a great father, patient, and kind with them.
“Okay…so remember the time you and dad.” He nodded toward Ryan. “Went to the shelter and passed out sandwiches and clothes?” He asked with a raised brow.
“Um-hum.” Corey nodded.
“Well, the clothes in the box are for them. You see. But, you did an amazing job dressing yourself.” Joel winked giving Corey a high-five. “Come on, let’s go change.” Joel stood up taking Corey’s hand.
“Are you taking him with you today?” Ryan asked as he lay back down.
“What do you say dude?” Joel eyed his son. “Are you hanging out with me?” Corey’s eyes lit up with excitement at the question and he nodded eagerly. “You sure you don’t want to come with us babe?” Joel asked Ryan once more.
“No, that’s okay. Let someone else have my spot.” Ryan offered kissing Nuri softly on the cheek. “Besides, the guys are excited about going. I’ll stay here and help get things ready.”
“Yeah…come on daddy go with us.” Corey begged with pleading eyes.
“Awww…” Ryan pouted sweetly. “Come here son.” Corey broke away from Joel running at full speed to his father wrapping his little arms tightly around his neck knocking Ryan breathless.
“Ummph…” Ryan chuckled. “You go, and you can tell me all about it, okay.” He smiled. “And don’t leave anything out…Tell me everything…spare me nothing.” He smirked. “And keep an eye on your dad for me.”
“Um…okay.” Corey agreed glancing around the room. “Um…” He hummed pressing his little finger to his lip. “Where’s the Nocklers?”
“Binoculars?” Ryan laughed.
“Yeah... the Ba…bin…noculars.” Corey tried his hardest to say it correctly.
“Ohhh…” Ryan laughed. “There in your father’s truck…right baby?”
“Yepp….come on, we need to get going. Let’s go find your grand pa’s, Kellan and wake up uncle Brye.” Joel motioned for his son. “Is there anything you need me to do before I go?” Joel asked Ryan as he and Corey were set to leave.
“As a matter of fact there is.” Ryan answered with a sense of urgency.
“I need just one more kiss before you go.” Ryan tilted his head slightly with a sexy smile.
“Sure, anything for you.” Joel said as he walked confidently to his husband. He leaned forward taking Ryan’s face in the palm of his hand and kissed him sweetly. “I love you.”
“Love you too. Have fun guys.”
“We will. We’ll miss you and Nuri. Right, son?”
“I won’t miss her crying.” Corey stated matter of factly, placing his hands to his ears shaking his head, causing his fathers to laugh at his honesty.
“Out of the mouths of babes…” Joel chuckled taking Corey’s hand. “Let’s go.”
“Bye Daddy…” Corey waved.
“Bye, son.” Ryan said returning the wave as he snuggled under the covers. He smiled as he listened to Joel and Corey’s voices fade as they went further down the hallway, thinking, he truly had to be one of the happiest men alive right now. Joel promised him, he would give him everything his heart desired, all he had to do was trust him. That was nine years ago.
Joel graduated with honors, making the Dean’s List every semester, leaving Ryan with two years before he would graduate. This would be a test not only of their love, but also their Hope in their commitment and each other.
Joel was offered a coaching job at Michigan State as one of the Offensive Coordinators for the Spartans, which he accepted. His busy schedule left little or no time to see Ryan. During the season, he was busy traveling with the team. While, during the off-season he was busy recruiting, which means he was gone at least three weeks at a time.
The only redeeming quality was Michigan was only a four-hour drive or a thirty-minute flight to Chicago , which both Joel and Ryan willingly made as often as possible. When the time they had to spend together would be limited to a day or two Joel would fly Ryan in to see him or fly, himself, like the time he surprised Ryan for his birthday and the few times he showed up for Ryan’s swim meets unexpectedly. Money was tight, so Joel was renting a one bedroom flat trying to save as much money as he could. He put aside spending money for his trips to visit Ryan, or when he came to visit him in Michigan. Joel was frugal and saved as much as he could, building a nest egg for them. His starting salary was roughly fifty thousand a year.
The apartment was located on the upper north side in a quiet neighborhood, and Ryan had his own key. He would go stay at the apartment over the weekends and breaks from school, even when Joel was out of town. It just felt like home, not to mention, it made him feel even closer to Joel. Soon Joel started referring to it as their place. He made it official when he had Ryan’s name put on the lease, Ryan’s senior year of college. That thought brought a huge smile to Ryan’s face. That year Ryan’s life changed forever.
He smiled fondly reminiscing about that year as he rolled over on his side looking down at Nuri, his and Joel’s little girl. It still amazed him that they had children. It always wowed him. Corey, was his pride and Joy…his little solider, but Nuri was his little princess… his heart. He peeked around the room as if he was sneaking and with a sly smile, he reached over, grabbed Nuri, and gently laid her upon his chest, moving her hair from her face. She whimpered in protest at being moved from her comfortable place in the bed. “Shhh…” Ryan whispered rocking her back to sleep.
He laughed quietly, noticing her tiny lips were red, swollen, and slightly bruised from the pacifier that had fallen out of her mouth. They only allowed her to have it at bedtime. Their plan was to break her from it, but Joel didn’t want Ryan to have to deal with the crying alone so they decided they’d do it together, like they did everything else that involved their children. He carefully reached for the pacifier placing it back into her mouth making sure she was comfortable. Her breath hitched as she soon dozed back off to sleep resting her head on her father’s chest.
Ryan inhaled deeply allowing the smell of fresh baby powder and lotion to tickle his nose. Ryan closed his eyes thinking back to the talk he and Joel had over dinner.
It was a Friday night, the weekend before the Labor Day holiday to be exact. School was back in session and Ryan was now a senior. He would always remember that night.
“So... how’s the creative writing class coming?” Joel asked pulling a piece of hot garlic bread from the loaf that sat in the middle of the table.
“It’s coming along. Ryan replied taking a sip of his amaretto sour. “I have a project due next week. I was hoping you could help me tonight.” He said as he crunched on a piece of ice.
“Sure. We can do that.” Joel smiled dipping his bread in the olive oil before taking a bite. “A nice quiet evening at home with my baby.”
“I know. Things have been so hectic. I’m excited we get to see each other two weekends in a row. When was the last time that happened since you graduated?”
“I know babe, I’m sorry.” Joel said apologetically.
“Don’t be.” Ryan said reaching for Joel’s hand. He laced their fingers together smiling kindly. “It’s your job.”
Joel heaved a heavy sigh, “I know. But it still doesn’t make it any easier.” He frowned. “I can’t wait till you graduate and move in with me.”
“You still want that?” Ryan questioned biting nervously on his lower lip. He remembered Joel mentioning that after making love a while back, but he was unsure as to whether he meant it or was just caught up in the moment.
“Of course…” Joel said with conviction. “I wish you could move right now. I miss you so much.” He paused for a moment in deep thought. “You know Ryan nights on the road are tough. I mean… really tough and lonely.”
“What do you do when you get lonely?” Ryan inquired hesitantly.
“Think about you.”
“And….what?” Joel laughed.
“You don’t go out?” Ryan left the question hanging.
“You mean to meet someone?” Joel frowned. “Of course not. I love you Ryan.”
Ryan released the breath he was holding and breathed a sigh of relief.
“You don’t get it do you? You’re it for me.” Joel said looking intently into Ryan’s eyes.
“I do…I do. And I love you too Joel.”
“Good. Because, I want to talk to you about something.”
“What?” Ryan smiled.
“Whew…” Joel sighed sitting straight up in his chair. “Okay, you see Ryan I’ve been thinking.”
“Here you go fellas’.” Their server interrupted them. “Hot plates. Let’s see Shrimp Alfredo in a white wine clam sauce for you.” She sat the plate in front of Joel. “That means the Chicken Marsala is for you. It’s hot, so be careful.” She warned sitting the plate down it front of Ryan. “Can I get you guys anything else?” She asked eyeing each one of them.
“No.” Joel nodded to Ryan for a response. “I think we’re good.” Joel smiled.
“I’ll check on you two later, enjoy your meal.”
Joel placed his napkin in his lap before picking up his fork.
“So…you said you wanted to talk to me.” Ryan said through a mouth full of food taking a sip of his drink.
“Oh yeah.” Joel cleared his throat spearing a shrimp from his plate stalling.
“Well….” Ryan questioned with a shrug of the shoulder, wiping the corner of his mouth with his napkin.
“I thought I had it all figured out Ryan, and now I..I don’t know how to say it?” He admitted biting the shrimp off the fork before sitting it down on the plate.
“Say what?” Ryan asked. Joel had captured his attention.
“It’s just I think about you all the time. I mean you’ve been great, but I think. No, I know I want more.” He admitted sadly.
“More?” Ryan questioned with a confused gaze attacking his features.
“Yes, Ryan, more.”
“Joel, what do you mean.” Ryan’s voice had taken on a more serious tone.
“Um…I mean I love you.”
“I know.” Ryan smiled tilting his head slightly. “I think we’ve established that. So what’s the problem?” He asked, picking up his fork cutting through his chicken.
“There is no problem. I just don’t want to lose you, that’s all.”
“You won’t.” Ryan assured him.
“Prove it.” Joel challenged.
Ryan laughed lightly as he lifted his fork to his mouth. “Prove it…how?”
“Marry you?” Ryan repeated his fork still in the air. His eyes widened with confusion. “I thought we talked about it already.”
“You’re right…we did. But I mean marry me now. Like right now… today.” Joel said with a tone of desperation lacing his voice.
“Today…Joel?” Ryan asked, sitting his fork back in his plate. “I thought you wanted to..Um wait.”
“I…” Joel ran his fingers through his hair anxiously.
“I thought we talked about waiting till I finished school.” Ryan said before Joel could finish his thought.
“I know, but I don’t want to wait. I want to be more than your boyfriend. I want to be your husband. Marry me, Ryan.”
“I don’t know what to say, Joel.”
“Say yes…Say yes, Ryan.”
“Wow…I don’t know what I was expecting but this wasn’t it.” Ryan said finishing off his amaretto sour. Joel noticed the perplexity in Ryan’s eyes and called the waiter over to their table.
“We’ll take two more.” He nodded to their drinks. Ryan nodded toward the server placing his hands in his lap.
“You know, Ryan, I could back down, but I’m not.” Joel stated adamantly. “I know you love me.”
“I do, Joel.” Ryan agreed.
“You promised me something awhile back. Do you remember?”
“You said we could make new dreams together. Well… my dreams are with you.”
Ryan’s breath hitched at Joel’s confession. He placed his hand to his heart feeling slightly overwhelmed.
“Listen. I’ve done my research. We can get married in Canada. You don’t have to be a resident there, but there’s a five day waiting period after you apply for the license before you can actually get married.” Joel informed him. “It doesn’t cost that much and we can say we had our honeymoon in Canada.”
“Wow…” Was all Ryan could muster. He was still in somewhat of a haze trying to process what Joel was telling him.
“What about our parents, they’ll freak.” Ryan said.
“Then we won’t tell. Nobody has to know right now except you and me.”
“I don’t know, Joel.” Ryan said hesitantly biting on his fingernail.
“I know you’re scared.” Joel said with concern. And he was right, Ryan was scared…terrified that he wouldn’t live up to Joel’s expectations of him, that Joel thought too much of him. He didn’t see himself as Joel saw him.
“But don’t be. I love you and I promise you, I’ll make you as happy as you make me.” He said reaching across the table, taking Ryan’s hand into his. “I want you to belong to me,” His voice was deep and alluring. “Be mine, Ryan… forever.”
Ryan smiled softly staring into his boyfriends eyes seeing pure love and sincerity. “You know, Joel, our marriage won’t be recognized here.”
“Then we’ll move to Canada.” Joel laughed teasingly. “I’ll take care of the needed paperwork here in the states. But I want something tangible that says we belong to each other. And our marriage will be recognized… right here.” He said pointing to his heart.
“Here you go.” The server sat the drinks down on the table, interrupting their conversation.
“Thanks…” Joel nodded before turning his attention back to Ryan.
“Ryan. There will always be someone taller than me…smarter than me, and more handsome than me…but he will never be capable of loving you like I do.” He stated emphatically. “You make it easy to love you; it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ll see to it that you’re happy and never want for anything. I guarantee it”
“Joel…” Ryan sighed; the overwhelming feeling, was slowly being replaced with an overt sense of joy.
“Your love is pure. I don’t know, but I think it’s who you are, it’s how you love…it’s addicting.” Joel smiled sexily.
“Yes, Joel, I’ll marry you.” Ryan grinned with tears in his eyes. “Yes.”
They both leaned forward bringing their lips together sealing it with a kiss.
~*~End of Flashback. ~*~
Ryan held his daughter tightly sighing contently. He and Joel were married a week later in Canada with Brye as their best man. He was the only person who knew Ryan and Joel were married, aside from Tank. Ryan stayed in Chicago finishing his senior year as a happily married man. They told their parents and friends they were actually married two years at the one-year anniversary dinner thrown by their parents, taking everyone by surprise.
Ryan could hear the rustling of dishes, laughter, and idle chatter coming from the kitchen along with the savory aroma of mixed spices of as he made his way down the hall. He smiled, stopping at the entrance of the living room watching his younger sister sitting on the floor, her legs crisscrossed with a large bowl of popcorn between them watching the holiday classic ‘Home Alone’. He loved the holidays, but most importantly he loved sharing them with family, and this year he and Joel were opening their home to both of their families.
“Morning…” He waved as he stepped into the kitchen. He ran his fingers through his bangs removing them from his eyes as he glanced around the room. He was dressed very casual, wearing a madras plaid button down shirt in vibrant colors of red, turquoise, and black along with a pair of distressed faded jeans.
Everyone stopped what they were doing to greet him.
“Morning?” His mother smiled lovingly. “It’s 12:30 in the afternoon.” She informed him while placing dishes into the dishwasher.
“That’s what happens when you stay out all night.” Janice laughed sitting on a barstool at the island in the middle of the kitchen. She was holding her sleeping grandson, Ryder in her arm, while holding a glass of white wine in hand, careful not to spill any as she took a sip.
He walked over to the island resting his arms on the counter taking it all in. He loved having his kitchen filled with his most treasured possession…His family. “Thank you.” He smiled taking the cup of coffee from Olivia. He took a sip careful not to burn his tongue.
“You’re welcome,” She smiled giving her brother in law a kiss on the cheek before bouncing happily back to her task of peeling potatoes for the homemade garlic mashed potatoes. She wore her hair pulled up in a ponytail that allowed her natural curly hair to frame her slender face. She and Brye had been married almost as long as Ryan and Joel. She kept true to her word; they made love for the very first time on their wedding night. Brye was the District Attorney for the State of New York, while she was a licensed Orthodontist, up until three months ago when they had their first child. Ryder Jacob Masterson.
“Looking good, ladies.” Ryan complimented opening the oven door. He took a long deep breath inhaling the mouth-watering aroma. Inside was a roasted turkey, big enough to feed an army and that’s what they were feeding tonight.
“See I think I’ll just delegate.” He laughed jokingly.
“I don’t think so young man.” Barbara laughed pouring herself a glass of wine.
“You tell him, mom.” Hope chimed in teasing her big brother. She was sitting at the end of the table next to her niece chopping vegetables for the salad.
“Mind your business, girl.” Ryan scolded shaking his finger reprimanding her.
Nuri sat in her highchair ,her tray full of chopped carrots, cucumbers, and celery. She begged for every vegetable Hope picked up, but once she got it, all she did was play with them. She was in her own little world until she heard the rich, hardy laugh of her father fill the kitchen.
“Daddy…up…up.” She giggled bouncing in her seat excitedly, her bright eyes begging for his attention. “Up…daddy.” She cried her arms out stretched summing him to come to her.
“Awww….look at my angel.” He smiled as he pulled the tray off the high chair. “Don’t you look pretty.” He said as more of a statement than a question commenting on her hair, which was pulled into a ponytail that sat on the top of head. “Who did it for you?” He asked as he picked her up.
Nuri blushed burying her head in her daddy’s chest displaying her deep dimples and pointed to her aunt Hope. Hope eased in Ryan’s bedroom stealing her nice while her brother slept. She bathed and dressed her bringing her out with the rest of the family.
“Don’t you act all shy with me little girl.” Hope laughed tickling her in her side causing Nuri to giggle and wiggle almost jumping out of Ryan’s arms.
“Hold on…” Ryan laughed trying to keep from dropping her. ”Thank you, Hope.” Ryan said appreciatively. He gave Nuri a big hug before putting her down. As soon as her little feet hit the floor, she was off to her grandma Janice.
“Baby…baby.” She pointed to a still sleeping Ryder placing her little chubby hands on Janice’s knee trying to get a closer look at her cousin. “I want to hold him…please.”
“Why, you’re just a baby yourself.” Barbara giggled, picking Nuri up from behind. Nuri wiggled in protest kicking her feet trying to get out of her grandmother’s arm.
“Put me down Nana…put me down.” Nuri cried. Barbara carefully lowered her down, patting her lovingly on the top of her head before she ran out of the kitchen as fast as her little legs could carry her.
“I love this kitchen, Ryan.” Janice complimented as she handed Ryder to Olivia. She ran her hands over the black and gray granite counter top, admiring the artisanship.
“Thank you.” Ryan smiled glancing around his kitchen. He and Joel had their home built three years ago. It was located in the Geist subdivision. The kitchen was one of Ryan’s favorite rooms in the house. He and Joel both loved to cook so they paid special attention to detail. The cabinets were 42” inch real maple wood, lots of counter space, real tile flooring, and stainless steel appliances. The walls were a creamy oatmeal color with white crown molding and red and rod iron accessories giving it that perfect touch.
“I love it.” Olivia agreed. “How often do you cook at home?” She asked propping Ryder up on her shoulder to burp him.
“All the time.” Ryan said I think Joel is a much better cook than I am.” Ryan admitted.
“So Ryan, when is the fourth installment of series going to hit the shelves?” His mom asked as she cautiously pulled the turkey out of the oven.
“Well, it’s with the editors right now.” He replied.
“Yeah…I really loved the first three.” Olivia added. “As a matter of fact I have School Daze, The Sophomore Year, in my bag. A girlfriend of mine found out you were my brother-in-law and gave me her copy for you to sign.” She giggled.
“And how did she find out your brother-in-law was Ryan Smith-Masterson…Hummm?” Janice teased.
“I have no idea.” Olivia laughed feigning innocence.
“Joel said you’ve been approached to turn the series into a movie.” Janice stated changing the subject.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about it.” Ryan said thoughtfully. His books were about a group of friends and the vicissitudes they face going from teens to adulthood.
“Yeah….” Hope sighed, “I totally fell in love with Dillon, he’s such a rebel.” She said with a dreamy look in her eyes.
“You stay away from the Dillons of the world, young lady.” Her mother chastised her teasingly. Everyone laughed making fun at Hope.
“Mom…” She crossed her arms over her chest, pretending to pout. “Ryan help me out here.”
“Uh…uh.” Ryan held up his hands in defense, shaking his head vehemently. “That’s between you and mom.” He laughed.
“Okay…” Olivia thought aloud. “So, Emmett is in town with his band. Jaxson and Tank get in this afternoon. What about Colin, where’s he?”
Jaxson and Tank were playing pro ball. Jaxson played for New England while Tank’s home was with the Baltimore Ravens. Out of all the friends, Tank was still the single one. He and Joel were still tight. He was the godfather to both Corey and Nuri. He and Joel saw each other at least twice a month without fail, and emailed and chatted on Facebook until the wee hours along with Emmett, and Jaxson all the time. Tank once told Joel, “There was just too much pussy he hadn’t tapped yet to settle down. And being a pro football player he didn’t have to wine and dine, he could get it for free.”
Emmett had a son with one of the girls in his band, while Jaxson had a steady girl he was bringing with him to dinner.
“Yeah, where is Colin?” Janice wondered.
“ He’s in Anchorage.” Ryan replied with a laugh.
“Alaska ?” Barbara asked with surprise.
“Yepp.” Ryan answered as he rinsed his cup out before placing it in the dishwasher. “Joel got an email from him two weeks ago. He works for some large software company heading up one of their departments. He’s getting married next year.”
“Colin?” Olivia laughed incredulously.
“I know…That’s what Joel said.” Ryan shrugged his shoulder dismissively.
“Well, if you need a babysitter, I’ll come stay with Corey and the baby.” Hope offered. “That is if mom and dad say it’s okay.” She said eyeing her mother.
“It’s okay with me.” Barbara replied, “Or the kids could stay with us while you guys are out of town.”
“Awww….Thanks Hope,” Ryan said kissing his sister on the cheek. “But I think Joel wants to take the kids, but… it could be a nice little get away for us.” He said thoughtfully. “So we’ll see.”
“Ryan, would you come and get your daughter?” Madeline asked with distress standing in the doorway.
“What’s she doing?” He asked getting up from the table.
“Well…I offered to share the popcorn with her and now she’s putting the uncooked kernels and half chewed popcorn back in the bowl.” She sighed rolling her eyes toward the ceiling, then added. “After she’s put them in her mouth, so the rest of the popcorn is all wet.” She said with disgust. "That's just gross."
Ryan laughed. “I’ll come and get her.” He sighed.
“I took the remote control away. She keeps trying to change the channel. “Saying her daddy is on TV.”
“Oh, she’s looking for Joel.” Ryan shook his head in amusement. “When we don’t go to the game we watch it on TV and I point Joel out to her.”
“How does she know?” Madeline whined in defeat.
Ryan shrugged his shoulder, scratching behind his ear. “I don’t know. They interviewed Joel when we first got here, and we got a copy of it. So if I need to entertain her, or get her out of my hair, I'll put it on and she’ll watch it over and over again." He laughed
“Hey yeah, it’s the 4th quarter.” Olivia said swiping the bag of sun chips off the counter, heading for the living room with Ryder in her arms.
“Hey wait for me.” Hope said opening the refrigerator, grabbing the veggie dip.
“Hey Janice, get the wine, I have the glasses.” Barbara called over her shoulder as she followed Hope and Olivia out of the kitchen.
“On my way.” Janice laughed grabbing the wine. “That boy gets all uptight in the last few minutes of the game. But I love seeing him in action.” She admitted hurrying out of the kitchen to join her family.
Joel was now the head Offensive Coordinator for the NFL Champions, The Indianapolis Colts and they had an early game today, following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Joel and the other coaches had an air conditioned suite that was catered with food and drinks they shared for their families, and Ryan thought it would be nice to spoil their out of town guests and let them enjoy the game in style.
Ryan glanced around the now empty kitchen that was still filled with warmth and love and smiled contently. He and Joel were in a good place, right where they needed to be. Sure they had their disagreements…what couple doesn’t … but their love for each other was insurmountable…nothing would…could… come between them. He sighed, thinking about the answer to the question Joel was asked in almost every interview after a game, win or lose. “So coach Masterson, how’s it going?” Joel’s answer was always the same. “It’s fantastic…I’m living the dream.” Ryan would always smile because he knew Joel was talking about him...about them. He laughed shaking his head. He could hear all the hoops and hollers coming from the living room. He grabbed a beer and joined his family in cheering the Colts and his husband to victory.