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About Mrsgnomie

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  1. Mrsgnomie

    Just Friends?

    Kapucinski is right. Shane’s knows he was a victim, but admitting rape isn’t always easy, especially with Shane’s background. It’s psychological warfare
  2. Mrsgnomie

    Just Friends?

    Absoultely. I, in no way, consider myself talented in this area. SYWM was the first story I’d every written on my own free will. Runner up, something mandated by the educational system to graduate high school. I’m always trying to improve. The conversation issue is something my editor changes. He makes so many really wonderful improvements, but dialogue isn’t always one of them. I usually try and change it so it flows better, but I can’t always catch them. I did find your examples and edited them, those we’re errors (so thanks for bringing them to light). I’ll continue to try and catch those things. Also, the water in my face. It was never suppose to say my, not sure why it did.
  3. Mrsgnomie

    Just Friends?

    Yes, I agree. I feel bad for Shane because Donovan said no, then goes out of his way to tempt him. It’s rude.
  4. Mrsgnomie

    Just Friends?

    I should’ve consulted you prior to writing this chapter because Donovan as Plain Joe would be good. Also, DAKS will talk. It’s not over.
  5. Mrsgnomie

    Just Friends?

    It’s true what they say—you should be careful what you wish for. I should’ve been more specific when I complained life was too boring and I’d do anything for a little excitement or drama. Other people’s drama, not mine! Damn. I’d only wanted to sit back and point my finger at all of the sorry bitches who needed to throw shit around on Jerry Springer. You know, someone and their brother who were both supposed to be the biological fathers of the same twins, or some shit like that. It wasn’t supposed to be my drama. I was only supposed to watch and sip a cock(tail) at the expense of others. Instead, my hypothetical phone was blowing up while the producers of every smut daytime talk show host was trying to book me for their latest exclusive. I had all of the drama and intrigue—a washed up, gay college baseball star that dated a sexy beast who was part homophobe asshole. Insert drama at the bar, a colorful break up, water thrown onto face, an epic storm out, ugly crying, a drunken night when he showed up at my house, a threesome with twins, his showing up at work with my boss, his dancing to kid’s music and making my heart flutter, my patients saying embarrassing things to him, his begging to talk, and then stolen glances and lingering eye contact at practice the next day. I took my phone out and scrolled through my video album until I found the video I’d taken of him dancing. Damn if he didn’t look adorable trying to dance to a song he’d probably never heard before. I laughed to myself as I once again watched him get every-single-move wrong, even after little Greg and tiny Beth tried to show him the simple steps. I’d made the dance for small kids with cancer so it wasn’t exactly complex, but you would’ve never known it by watching Shane. The video was mostly of his back, but there were a few times the camera caught a glimpse of his profile and the genuine happiness on his face was as clear as a bell. If being adorable with my favorite little ones wasn’t enough, there was the fact he’d dressed in something other than Walmart athletic apparel. Not regular clothes, either but business clothes. He’d worn the jeans that’d caused me to drop to my knees and blow him before he’d had a chance to buy them, and a green blazer that complimented his chestnut hair and tanned skin. With frustration, I tossed my phone across the bed and reminded myself that Shane was the fucking devil and I didn’t dance with the devil, no matter how good he looks in business professional attire or how precious it was when he was interacting with my kids. He was still the devil. I sighed, reached across my bed, and grabbed the phone I’d just thrown. I had a habit of dramatically tossing it when I became frustrated, but in reality, there was no way I was going to be separated from it. I’d glanced at the time and noted Allé was due to arrive any minute. I needed brunch with Allé like I needed air to breath or my phone in my hand. It’d been five days since the breakup and so much had happened since. I desperately needed to decompress or I was going to breakout from all of the stress. Plus, he owed me food after leaving me with Nick and Nelly. The fucking shyster. After I heard a car pull up, I grabbed my phone and a light jacket before going downstairs. The downfall to brunch was waiting all morning to eat. I was starved and I couldn’t wait another minute to stuff my face. I heard, and felt, my phone go off just as the doorbell rang. Allé. Curious to see what couldn’t have waited ten more seconds, I opened the door for Allé with one hand while I tried, and failed, to gracefully swipe my phone to reveal the text he’d sent me. “What’s so urgent you had to text me two seconds before—” my brows furrowed as I read the text. [Allé] See you tonight at practice and don’t be a bitch about this. “Don’t be a bitch? Are you drunk?” Confused by his words, I looked to Allé for answers. Was he drunk, high, or just plain crazy? It wasn’t only my words that faltered, my whole body did—when I was met with a set of very familiar brown eyes nervously staring at me. My chest, my breathing, my heart rate—hell, I thought the blood flowing through my veins had stuttered as I stood there, gawking in silence, until I finally collected myself enough to speak. “What are you doing here?” “Brunch?” He smiled awkwardly. I shook my head. “No. I’m going with Allé.” Shane's eyes narrowed, apologetically, as if reminding me that I’d forgotten something important. My brow was arched with amusement as I realized I’d been set up, again. “You watch a lot of crime shows, yeah? Do you think you could successfully cover up a murder and dump the body? Or maybe you’d take the fall for me since, you know, you owe me.” There might’ve been a legitimate way to kill Allé without serving jail time. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind being someone's bitch, but I preferred it to be on a consensual basis and I didn’t think that would’ve happened while wearing an orange jumpsuit, which made me think of the last time I wore the infamous jumpsuit/romper... I was pulled out my mental “rabbit hole” by the deep rumble of Shane’s soft laugh. “Would you settle for something less intense? Like letting me dump your kitchen trash instead of a body?” His smile was annoyingly warm and charming—I hated it. “That’s not exactly what I’m looking for.” I half-teased. After I realized we’d started to tease one another, and not wanting to cave-in, I straightened my posture and regained a more serious tone. “What are you doing here?” “I’m here to have brunch with you and to talk.” I was starving and I had zero desire to wait at a restaurant plus, I knew he had a strong aversion to fast food so I figured it’d be the quickest way to shake him. “Fine. We’re planning to go to McDonald’s, though.” His shoulders sunk, slightly, with disappointment as he lifted a pastry box from a matching paper bag. “Oh. I guess I’ll have to eat all three dozen of these mini quiches from The Endless Brunch.” It wasn’t your generic pink box, instead, it was beautifully littered with flowers of every color. It was a perfect fit to the chaos of color and elegance that graced the most memorable meal I’d ever had. The mention of those perfectly delicious mini quiches had my stomach yearning for a taste and, as much as it pained me to admit it, there was no way McDonald’s gut bomb sandwiches would, or could, compare or satisfy me since I had the real deal in front of me. After he opened the box, a wave of savory goodness breached my senses and rendered me completely at his mercy. As I opened the door a little wider, to let the little quiches into my home while never taking my eyes off of them, I sighed. “Well, since you already have them…” Shane walked passed me, making sure I caught a good whiff of his evil bribery before placing the box on the table, walking to the kitchen and opening my cupboards. I immediately grabbed one and took a bite. It was like a drug—the moment it’d hit my mouth, every problem disappeared and my body went limp as every muscle relaxed. I was torn between either slowly savoring every bite and edging myself toward a paradise of bliss, or stuffing my face and giving myself the instant gratification I’d desired. Food porn. I chuckled at the connection and popped a second one into my mouth as I’d decided on a happy medium—somewhere between slow erotic food porn and the back-of-the-club anonymous take-all-you-can-get-and-run food porn. Shane smiled as he teasingly waved a small salad plate in the air. “I guess you won’t be needing this.” He placed one plate in front of him and the other off to the side—I had no need for mine since the mini bites of goodness weren’t going anywhere except into my mouth. As I held the box of quiche-filled treasure tightly to my chest, I saw Shane’s lip curl into a stupid, sexy smirk. “So, can I have one?” His brow cocked as he watched me eat my fourth…or was it my fifth, quiche. “I’m sorry, where are my manners?” I mumbled with a mouth full of food. I grabbed one, lonely quiche and tossed it his way. He caught it, effortlessly, which wasn’t surprising since he was only sitting a few feet away and was a relatively decent catcher, although I wouldn’t ever tell him that. He held the quiche at eye level and looked at me like I was crazy. I decided to ignore the cute and playful way he’d tried to interact and get to the point. “You said you wanted to talk. You can’t talk with a mouthful of these, so you get one.” I smiled and tossed another bite into my mouth, which only made him keep smiling. Okay, maybe I didn’t want to completely ignore him. I didn’t hate making him smile, I didn’t hate having him in my house, I didn’t hate eating with him, and I didn’t hate looking at him. I did, however, hate the fact things seemed so easy between us—as they’d been before everything went south. I’d wanted him to give me a good explanation, one that’d wash away everything that’d happened, yet, at the same time, I was nervous to hear what he had to say. Time seemed to crawl and the air thickened as I waited for him to say something…anything. He reached into the box and pulled out a handful of quiches before setting them on his plate. “I’ve been thinking about this moment, non-stop, for days and now that I’m here, I don’t know what to say.” I started counting with my fingers. “You could start with why you freaked out and left my house, why you stopped talking to me, why you brought a date to the bar, and why you talked shit about me. Or better yet, why you dated me if you found me so repulsive, which brings me to the real question I’ve asked twice already—why are you here? You made it clear, to everyone, the real reason we were together, so I don’t know what you feel there is to talk about?” I was surprised to find my tone wasn’t rude or hostile—I guess genuine curiosity is a powerful suppressant. Shane’s eyes shot up with surprise and any nervousness, he might’ve had, vanished with my questions and his brown eyes were almost frantic. “A date? What are you talking about? Aside from you, I haven’t been on a date in years and, even then, I’d hardly call what I did, dating.” “Friday night, remember? You came in, after the game, laughing and flirting with the brunette twink.” “You mean, you?” he asked, seriously. I couldn’t believe his response. Me? Hell, no! “Are you serious?” I hated being referred to as a twink when directly related to the slob he’d brought to the bar. We were not the same person. “We barely talked and what was said between us would never be classified as laughing or flirting! Maybe murderous, or even uncomfortable tension for those around us, but not laughing or flirting. No, I’m talking about—what’s his name, David?” I knew his name was Davis, but for the sake of pride I’d never admit that. “Davis? Pardon my language but, fuck no! I can barely stand to be around the guy let alone flirt with him or laugh at anything he says.” “Then why did you bring him?” “Because I didn’t have much of a choice. He works for the hospital and I had to meet with him before we met up to deal with the big contract. He basically invited himself and made it impossible to say no and believe me, I tried…hard! “As for everything else that happened that night, I’m sorry and I doubt there’s any conversation we could have today that would suffice, but the short version is—I have no balls. It’s the same reason I didn’t stand up to my dad during the reunion. “I always feel as though I’m trying to prove myself and I was still trying to impress Davis for the job, which is no longer an issue. A little too late, I know. “I already explained the communication error, but if you need to hear it again, then I’ll say it as many times as I need to in order for you to understand. Nothing I said had anything to do with you. It was a long running commentary about my dad and the stupid things he says. There’s lots of them, by the way. “If you hang around long enough, I’m sure you’ll hear them all. Also, for the record, you do have a tight ass, which I feel strongly about, and under no circumstances do I find you repulsive, not even a little. Lastly, and probably most importantly, you are exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for.” By the time he’d finished his little speech, he sat tall and confidently on his chair and there was no doubt he believed every word he’d said, but I wasn’t sure I had. He appeared authentic, I just wasn’t sure I could trust him, even though I wanted to. Regardless, one thing still bothered me. “Okay, then please explain the morning you ran out with your tail between your legs.” He knew what I was referring to. I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned back against my chair while his tall, confident stance regressed and his eyes softened ever so slightly. “Well, it isn’t something I easily talk about, but I should’ve been honest with you right away. Everything happened so fast and, before I knew it, I felt it was too late and I didn’t know how to backtrack, which made everything worse. The more I think about it, the more stupid it all seems. It’s possible that, over the years, I’ve overblown the situation in my head.” Shane glanced down at the quiche he was nervously turning into crumbs before setting it on his plate and wiping the crumbs from his fingers. He put one hand on his lap as he ran the other through his thick, auburn hair before continuing. “It’s so stupid. It was after a big finals party during my freshman year. I’d gotten crazy wasted and, at the end of the night, I went home with a guy. Honestly, the whole night is kind of a blur, but I vaguely remember having sex before passing out. I was still drunk when I woke with excruciating pain. It took a second to get my bearings and that’s when I realized the guy was fucking me, or trying to, I dunno. We fought for a second before I overpowered him and kicked him out. “I know it sounds lame and maybe it really is a terrible excuse, but that’s why I freaked out when I woke up. Granted, what you were doing was a lot more enjoyable than what he did, and didn’t cause me day’s worth of pain and discomfort, but still…” I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. More than that, I couldn’t believe the ease with which he’d told me. I felt like scum for what I’d done. I should’ve known. I’m a nurse. I have training on this stuff. I know the statistics and I just ignored it. I couldn’t stop feeling terrible about it. I leaned forward and buried my face in the palms of my hands. “I’m such an asshole! I can’t believe I did that to you after you were raped.” “What?” I uncovered my eyes to find Shane staring at me as if I’d told him I preferred sex with chicks. “I was not raped!” His voice left no room for argument. Unsure if I was understanding the situation correctly, I slowly asked, “So. It was consensual?” “No, of course not. I was passed out, but I was bigger than him and I stopped it as soon as I realized what was happening.” I slide my hand toward in a gesture of comfort. “Shane. That’s most definitely rape. You were passed out when he forced himself on you and, by the sound of your recovery time, not very gingerly, either.” “It wasn’t rape! It was a bad experience.” His face was set in a hard line that matched the tone of his voice. I didn’t know who he was trying to convince, me or himself, but I wasn’t buying it. Everything he’d told me was textbook rape. Although I worked mainly in Pediatric Oncology, I’d worked many rotations in the emergency room and had dealt with more than a few rape cases and it was common knowledge that men tended to have a harder time admitting. Of course, I understood it. Being raped felt similar to admitting that you’re too weak—that you can’t defend yourself—which is never easy for a man. Then there was the real fear that other guys will make fun of you because of it. ‘Are you saying you didn’t want to have sex?!’ The whole rape double standard was fucked up and Shane was a classic example. The nurse in me wanted to lay the facts on the table and talk some sense into him, but I had nothing in my favor. Our relationship, to whatever degree it was, wasn’t at a healthy enough place for that kind of conversation. As hard as it was, I had to let the topic go—for the time being. “Okay. I’m still sorry for what I did. If I’d known—” “I know. Trust me, it’s not a big deal. I just wanted to explain. Honestly, it was only a momentary overreaction.” The more he tried to downplay what had happened, the more I wanted to take him into my arms and console him. I hated the fact he’d waved the situation off as if it was no big deal because it was a big fucking deal! I wanted to wrap my fingers around his neck and squeeze the stupidity from his pea-sized brain, but instead, I took a deep breath to regain my composure, pulled back my own emotions, and allowed him to deal with things the way he wanted. “Regardless, I’m glad you told me. It clears up a lot for me now that I understand the bigger picture, so thank you,” I smiled, warmly. Shane’s broad shoulders visibly relaxed after my acceptance. I could only imagine the burden he’d been carrying around (for years) and how good it must’ve felt to let it go. His eyes filled with something resembling hope and anticipation as I also noticed him puff up more than usual. It was almost as if he was trying to make himself bigger and assert his manliness, which made sense after his enlightening revelation. If the atmosphere hadn’t been so tense after his rape bomb, I would’ve smiled at his big, manly stature that didn’t match his nervous, hopeful expression. “I don’t want to make assumptions, but does this mean we’re okay?” “Yeah, of course we’re okay.” How could we not be? He’d admitted to being raped and I wasn’t about to tell him to fuck off, not that I’d wanted to anyway. His eyes narrowed for a moment as he took my words in then he spoke, slowly, and his voice was full of hesitancy. “Okay—I guess what I really want to know is, where does this leave us?” “I guess it leaves us where we were, minus the anger and silence. So, friends?” At that, he leaned back with one arm draped over the back of the chair while his other hand softly drummed on the table. “Honestly, I want to be friends with you about as badly as you want me to dump your kitchen trash. To quote you earlier, it’s not what I’m looking for.” “Come on, Shane, what did you expect?” I wasn’t rude, but I wasn’t exactly cotton candy, either. “Evidently, a miracle.” His voice was neutral as he rose from his chair and brushed the crumbs onto his plate. He grabbed the rest of the garbage and dirty dishes from the table before making his way to the kitchen to dispose of the mess. Once setting everything in the sink he walked to the door. “That’s not fair,” I said as I followed him to the door. After he was outside, he turned and faced me. His face was the poster for “too cool for school” and the idea he’d felt the need to pretend as though he was unaffected by anything and everything drove me nuts. “You’re right, it’s not fair and I’m sorry. I know I’m not good enough for you, you make it obvious every time you point out my mistakes, but I’ve never liked anyone the way I like you. I’ve never tried with anyone the way I have with you. It’s not easy being repeatedly rejected. It wasn’t easy coming here and sharing everything with you—to tell you something that not even Aaron knows—just to be shot down. I tried. I took chances with you that I’ve never taken with anyone else, but in the end, it’s not enough and that’s okay. In the end, I know I did everything I could, but I don’t want to be friends. It’s humiliating enough to be shut down, I don’t need a constant reminder.” He fidgeted with his keys then slightly raised them and waved farewell as he stepped backward, toward his truck and smiled, except it was empty. “I guess, I’ll see you around.” I leaned against the door frame as he walked away and felt incredibly guilty that he’d gone through all of that, he hadn’t processed it, and I’d taken advantage of him. He’d come and poured his heart out to me only to be rejected, again. I felt guilty about: having always given him a hard time, I’d probably taken the anger from my past and projected it onto him, and the fact my pride wouldn’t allow me to do anything about it. If that wasn’t enough, I felt pretty shitty about having sex with the twins. We might’ve been broke up, but it was clearly over a misunderstanding. He’d even tried to talk to me about it at the bar and again after the reunion, only to be blown off. To make it worse, if at all possible, my first and probably only three way, would forever be tainted with guilt and regret. *** *** *** *** He wasn’t joking when he’d said he’d see me around—he was everywhere. At the salon getting his haircut (something he knew I didn’t want him to do), the ballpark (obviously), the gym, and the park. I would’ve suspected he was following me, but half of the time, he was there before I arrived. At first, it was awkward, but he was friendly enough and, although he didn’t go out of his way to talk to me, he didn’t completely ignore me, either. Cordial would’ve been the best way to describe our relationship. I couldn’t complain since it was basically what I’d wanted. Regardless, it didn’t stop me from secretly pouting like a whiny bitch or doing stupid things to get his attention like intentionally dressing for him or discreetly flaunting my body at the ballpark when I knew he’d be watching. I was confused. I wanted him, but I wanted him to want me more, and I didn’t want him to give up. I wanted a big, grand gesture, but I also didn’t want to cave-in. Obviously, I was acting like a fourteen-year-old girl would and I couldn’t seem to stop myself. Professor of the Arts. *** *** *** *** It’d been two weeks since brunch and it was the practice before we were to play our third game against Shane’s team. We were in the middle of a heatwave. DAKS’ team was sweaty and exhausted from the scorching temperatures, and they decided to end practice a few minutes early while my team was in no rush to start. As usual, we ended up in a group; talking about nothing and everything. “It’s so fucking hot today,” I groaned. I took my shades off then pealed my shirt over my head before wiping the excess moisture from my face and neck. I could’ve left my shirt on, but it was hot and Shane was there. I tried to mimic every hot babe from every soda seduction commercial Pepsi had ever produced. By the time I looked up from dabbing my neck and chest with my shirt and moaning from the excessive heat, I had almost every pair of eyes glued to me, including Shane’s. Between my faithful visits to the gym and the time I’d spent sun worshiping, I knew I had a body worth ogling. I wasn’t overly buff like a gym rat, but I wasn’t skinny or scrawny, either. All one hundred sixty-five pounds of me was a perfect blend of soft lines that hid hard muscle. I didn’t have a ripped six pack, but my stomach was tight, toned, and completely on display as I rolled the high waist of my baseball pants down until it was sitting on my pubic bone—any lower and I would’ve easily revealed what was at the end of my “happy trail.” There was nothing but silence as I held my water bottle to the side of my face and slowly slid it down my neck and chest. “Aren’t you guys dying?” I asked the group of speechless, gawking men. Drew smacked his lips while his eyes pursued my body. I smirked at his trance-like state, which rendered him totally oblivious to anyone else. Shane must’ve seen me watching Drew because the next thing I knew, he elbowed Drew and knocked him out of his daze. “Yep, dying,” Drew mumbled as he wiped his lips. I glanced at Shane, who was now doing a really great job of trying to avoid me. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment because I’d gotten his attention. I’d been working hard over the last two weeks and I wasn’t entirely convinced I was successful, until then. I tossed my shirt onto the ground next to my baseball gear and lifted my water bottle to my lips. Once I’d quenched my thirst and gotten as much attention as possible, I put the bottle down and broke the silence that had overwhelmed the group since the start of my ballpark striptease. “Are you guys ready to get your asses kicked…again?” My question was for the DAKS who laughed in return. “After you guys lost to Riley’s Restoration?” Aaron scoffed. “Riley’s Restoration! No way! We’ve got this in the bag!” In an effort to defend our honor, Sammy shouted back, “Give me a break! Half of our team was gone and Eddy had a broken arm!” “Whatever. It was Riley’s! They haven’t won a single game…ever! Except against you guys!” Aaron laughed It was true, the only game we’d lost all season, up to that point, was to the last ranking team. It’d made their week and they’d made it their mission to make sure everyone knew they’d won. We didn’t mind, though, because they were great guys and super fun to play against. “Whatever. Don’t let your heads inflate too much, it makes the burst of failure that much worse,” Nelly mocked. “Do you care to make a wager?” Drew asked. Nelly stepped up to Drew, albeit several inches too short. “Name it.” “If we win, we all go to that gay bar, Rafen’s.” We looked at each other with confusion because it didn’t sound like much of a loss. Hell, we’d probably end up there anyway! Before we had a chance to agree, Drew was shaking his head and waving his finger in the air as if telling us no. “Let me finish because you get too excited. We go to Rafen’s, but…we get to dress you however we please!” We looked at each other again, but that time we silently agreed on our half of the wager. Nelly agreed. “Okay, but if we win, we dress you and we all go to your favorite straight bar.” Everybody nodded in agreement as it was obvious everyone was confident their team would win. “Dibs on the twins!” Drew shouted. “Same,” Nick and Nelly shouted the same thing while pointing at Drew, indicating they were going to dress him, which were equal parts of terrifying and intriguing. “No fair!” Aaron whined. “Fine, I get Sammy and Oliver.” Aaron had clearly wanted a two-for-one deal. As they looked at each other, I saw ideas twirling through their minds. Aaron’s “Steve Irwin” costume had been a topic of many conversations so I knew they were going to try to top it. Allé and Kurt smiled at each other and silently paired off because they’d become friends, something to do with the fact they were both the quiet and mature ones of the groups. That left Shane and me, which left me feeling all sorts of nervous, yet excited. Shane, on the other hand, looked completely indifferent and wildly underwhelmed by the pairing. The chatter was full of excitement as threats were thrown back and forth before we finally had to start practice. After saying our goodbyes, but before actually parting ways, I gently pulled on Shane’s arm. He glanced at the spot where my hand was touching his arm and then looked at me with confusion. “Don’t worry, I won’t do anything…too crazy.” I meant it. I wanted him to know he could trust me and I wouldn’t cross any lines by making him overly uncomfortable. I still felt bad about what had happened to him in college and what I’d done to magnify it—under no circumstances did I want to make it worse. “You can do whatever you want,” he smirked. “Yeah?” I was more than a little surprised that he’d be cool with the possibility of me having unrestricted access to his wardrobe before going to his favorite watering hole. He shrugged his shoulders and started taking a few casual steps backward. “Sure, but you’ll have to win first. I’m not too worried, since you lost to Riley’s and all.” “Asshole,” I laughed at his stupid, cocky smile. He pointed at me. “You on the other hand, should be terrified.” Before I had a chance to respond, he’d already turned around and was walking to his car. During the last two weeks, I’d been very intentional about not checking him out because I didn’t want to violate him. But…that butt in those baseball pants… I couldn’t peel my eyes away as I watched his muscular legs carry his gorgeously, thick ass away from me. It wasn’t only the old grey baseball pants that did all of the right things for his body, it was the thread-bare T-shirt with the sleeves cut off, too. I’d never understood why freckles had such a bad rep because Shane’s ginger freckles were sexy as fuck! I loved the fact he wasn’t a gym buff, yet, you knew he was as strong as a safe. I’m not a super small dude, but I loved having his body wrapped around mine as much as I loved wrapping my body around his. I’d needed to stop thinking about Shane and focus on—well, anything else. I shook the thoughts from my head and walked toward practice and away from my affinity of a certain auburn hunk who’d been dominating my thoughts for way too long. I’d made my choice and as hard as it was, I knew it was for the best. *** *** *** *** “We need to pull it together. All I’m seeing is error after stupid error. It’s not complex stuff we’re missing people! Earl, you missed a fucking baby grounder that turned their hit into a triple. Sammy, you threw the ball to third when there wasn’t even anybody running to it! This is our last inning and if they make even one run…it’s over!” My words were hollow. I was ready to hightail it off of the field and straight to my car so I could blast the ice cold AC. It was the hottest day in recent history, well above triple digits—and there wasn’t a breeze to be found. Everyone in the huddle had red faces, those who dared to wear shirts were soaking wet from sweat, and eyes were full of defeat. It was obvious that a long work week, paired with the excessive heat, was killing our desire to win. “Seriously, I couldn’t give two fucks if we lose this game. I only want to sit in front of my crappy AC unit, with an ice cold beer, before I die of heat stroke. I don’t work outside, as most of these guys do, so I can’t hack it,” Randy mumbled. The rest of the group nodded and whined with agreement. I couldn’t blame them because I felt the same way. For a moment, I thought about the DAKS and the bet we’d made. They’d gloat, which would be understandable, then Shane would probably make me wear something super slutty to the bar. Honestly, I would’ve probably worn something super slutty anyway simply because I wanted to. Shane lacked imagination and experience in the gay-club culture, even the stretch of his wildest imagination would’ve been conservative compared to what other guys wear to the clubs. I breathed a breath of relief because I knew I was relatively safe from any lifelong embarrassment. “Well, if we’re all agree, then let’s go out there and lose to these landscaping bastards whose energy feeds off of the sun’s harmful rays.” I reached forward and, eager to finish this game, everyone followed suit. “Fuck this shit on three. One, two, three.” “Fuck this shit!” We grabbed our mitts and ran to the field so we could play the last inning of the scorch trials. We lost. I’d pitched the last inning because no one wanted to do anything, and I didn’t try very hard, either. They made several runs, we called it a game. They looked as exhausted as we were. It wasn’t until we’d lost that the team started to hustle—to the dugout so they could gather their things and go home. As Aaron walked toward me with his equipment bag thrown over his shoulder, he cried. “Leave it to you to find a way to lose and make it so we can’t enjoy it! I demand a rematch!” The rest of his posse weren’t far behind him but they didn’t appear to be as willing to move quite as fast in the blistering heat. “What are you moaning about? You won, we lost, end of story.” “You guys weren’t even trying. It was like you were pitching for T-Ball. No one moved unless the ball was coming directly to them. We didn’t win, you guys lost the will to play.” Aaron dropped his bag in front of me and a few moments later Drew, Kurt joined him. Shane hung back, which was slightly irritating. “Regardless, you guys get to dress us up like sluts and take us dancing so quit your bitching.” I playfully pushed his shoulder and was rewarded with a dazzling smile from, not only Aaron, but pretty-boy Drew, too. Shane appeared to be amused, but mostly, he stood there looking bored. Drew rubbed his hands together, like Dennis the Menace would, as his smile widened and his eyes danced with endless possibility. “I spent a few hours on Google and found some very good ideas for the twins. It’s going to be epic!” “I’d love to have a look see at your search history. Ten bucks says you weren’t only looking for gay club attire,” I teased. Aaron and Kurt roared with laughter as they cupped their mouths and watched their best friend blush ever so slightly at being called out. “Whatever. We’ll see who has the last laugh when Shane gets through with you,” he smirked as if he knew something no one else did, but I shrugged because I knew it was a bluff. “I’m not worried. There’s nothing Shane can dress me in that I haven’t worn clubbing before. If anything, the guys at the club will be shocked at how conservative I look. They’ll probably think I’ve gone straight or something.” I looked at Shane in hopes I could give him a teasing look or a cocky smirk and prompt some sort of repartee from him, but I was sadly disappointed. He acknowledged that he’d heard me by shrugging his shoulders, but he still hadn’t looked at me. As it turned out, everything around him was far more interesting than me. I wasn’t stupid. I’d turned him down and, because of that, I couldn’t possibly have expected him to keep trying. After all, I’d made myself crystal clear.
  6. 20 minutes! I’m doing a read through and I’ll post it.
  7. Today! Life got insane but I’m doing it this morning!
  8. I don’t know that he WANTED Donovan and Shane to reconcile as much as he wanted his friend to be happy. Donovan didn’t exactly tell him “hey, I want to be with that giant dumbass...in the light of a new day, it’s possible he was just trying to distract him.
  9. They sit down and talk in the next chapter!
  10. Cool, call me out on this plot hole, lol. I'm gonna say that Davis works for corporate and it's very possible the time he visited the unit, Donovan wasn't working. Either way, they haven't crossed paths prior to the incident at the bar. I agree, but I really don't think Shane meant anything by it, like, I don't think Shane realized Davis had a crush or was flirting until it was too late, then it was back peddling. Right or wrong, it was stupid but he wasn't being malices. Also, he couldn't really advice Donovan since they hadn't been talking... I agree, they should have said something to Davis when he was talking about Donovan...but I also know what it's like to get caught off guard in the moment.
  11. The one regret that changed everything. It was eight o’clock in the morning and the contractors were back to work, filling my house with the obnoxious noise of renovations. I crumpled my pillow into a ball and shoved my face into it as I let out a frustrated cry. Lately, I’d been spending most nights with Aaron since my house is basically nothing but bones with a bedroom, but after Friday night, I was basically exiled until I figured out how to fix things with Donovan. The bastards didn’t care if I personally fixed my relationship with him, they only cared about themselves and if Donovan hated them. That meant I was back at my house; where the bathrooms had no doors, the kitchen was gutted, the floors were plywood, and the walls were studs. It was barely livable. I shouldn’t have been living there, but I was. Of course, neither living in this construction hellhole nor getting the cold shoulder from my best friends were the reasons for screaming into my pillow. Donovan. Sweet, sexy, smart, funny, sassy, and smoking hot, Donovan. The things I’d said, the look on his face, and the hurt in his green eyes. Those were the reasons I’d screamed into the dark abyss of my feather pillow. I’m surprised I heard the chirp of my phone (indicating I had a text) over my release of emotions, but I did. I didn’t want to look because I had a good idea who it was and he wasn’t anyone I wanted to talk to. I was confident it wasn’t from any of my friends, and it definitely couldn’t have been from my boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend (I couldn’t bring myself to use that term, not yet). One would think Donovan had made himself clear, but I hadn’t quite reached the acceptance stage. It was funny because, in the past, none of my breakups had that effect on me. If they wanted to break up, I said, ‘okay, good times’ and gave them a handshake before they walked out of the door. I never thought twice about the split. Donovan was the first person I actually wanted to date and spend time with, but old habits die hard. I grabbed my phone while holding on to a sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was texting me. There was a strong internal battle raging as to whether or not to look at the phone. On one hand, if I didn’t look then the possibility of Donovan wanting me back was alive and well, but if I looked, I’d know it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him. It was Davis. Fucking Davis Hollingsworth. *** *** *** *** I’d met Davis the previous week, about a potential commercial remodel job. The job was a big one and would keep me busy for a while, if I could get it. It was a hospital that was going to undergo not only extensive remodeling, but additions, which was why they needed me. Davis worked for Samaritan Health Corp. and was in charge of overseeing the entire project, including hiring contractors such as myself. I’d never been one to suck up, but it was a big job and I really wanted it. I was respected in my field but was still considered a small fish. This contract would bump me up considerably. Life might not revolve around your success but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying to climb that ladder. Having the hospital job in my portfolio would allow me the opportunity to pick better, more sustainable jobs, which was why I allowed him to leach onto me. Since he wasn’t local, he asked if I’d show him around. I didn’t want to, but decided I needed to be friendly. As far as mistakes go, friending Davis had been a big one and I hadn’t been able to shake him since. I didn’t tell him about the Friday night game, but I’d accidently let it slip that I was going out with friends that evening, so he invited himself along. Everything happened so fast and the next thing I knew, he was following me into the bar. Davis was obviously gay and very obviously interested in me—a feeling that wasn’t reciprocated. I hadn’t had a chance to tell him about Donovan, both because I didn’t have time and had no interest in sharing anything about my personal life with him, which made everything incredibly awkward when we sat down. I’d already been fighting with Donovan, which was my fault. Before arriving at the bar, I’d had every intention of sitting him down when the night was finished and explaining everything. Donovan didn’t look happy when he saw Davis follow me in and Davis didn’t look happy to hear Donovan was my boyfriend. I was stuck in an awkward sandwich in which I only wanted Donovan, and Davis could choked on a straw…after I got the contract. In a perfect world, Donovan and I would’ve rubbed our blissfully happy relationship into Davis’ face, but we weren’t talking so, instead, I awkwardly sat next to Donovan. I’d told him I wanted to talk when we were finished, he agreed, and about two seconds later, he became pissed because I offered to get his drink refilled. That was pretty much the point when the night went to shit. As Donovan stormed off, he took his friends with him and I watched them dance for a while before Davis started dropping comments about Donovan—he was obviously jealous and didn’t like him. I, mostly, ignored him as I followed Donovan and his friends around the bar with my eyes. That’s when a Britney Spears song came on and everyone forced him to dance. The dance itself was terribly cheesy, yet hilarious. The best part was watching Donovan—the guy could dance and watching his body move was my favorite pastime. Watching him move only gave me more motivation to leave so we could work things out, so then I could ravage his smoking hot body. I watched them hysterically laugh as the song finished and then they pushed each other toward the exit. I couldn’t help but smile at Donovan’s carefree spirit. He looked especially good laughing. “Donovan is seriously hilarious! I love that guy.” It made me happy to know my friends liked Donovan, almost as much as I did—Drew could’ve toned it down a bit, but I wasn’t worried. Davis asked about Donovan and his friends, so we took some time to explain how we’d all met and about the night we’d all gone to the club after they beat us for the first time. “So, you’re into guys like that?” Davis asked. I felt his judgement and something inside of me panicked. I shrugged and nodded, too afraid to say something that might offend him. Hindsight… “I think you’d do so much better with someone who’s not so...you know?” I knew what he was implying and I would’ve been lying if I’d said there weren’t moments, in the past, when it was a little difficult for me—mostly because my dad, as great as he was, had really fucked me up. “Sometimes he can be overly, boisterous. Like tonight.” “Yeah, that dance was terrible! I was cringing the whole time. You’d never do anything like that, would you?” “Of course not.” And I wouldn’t have. I’ve never like attention and I’d always shied away from things like public displays of affection, karaoke, school talent shows, dancing at weddings with less than six beers or three hard drinks, or tripping on air. Basically, anything that might bring unwanted attention, which was any attention. “I didn’t think so, because you’re not like that,” he smirked but I shot him a hard glance that told him to watch it, that he was treading on very thin ice. Davis looked around the table and realized he wasn’t surrounded by Donovan haters. “Seriously though, you’re different. It’s my experience that not all gay guys are created equal. I guess to each their own. I for one, wish there were more guys like you. You’re cool and chill. You’re a man, you play sports, you live life. You don’t try and prove yourself by waving the flag or...doing a ridiculously embarrassing dance to Britney Spears in the middle of a bar,” he laughed. Kurt looked at me with his mouth agape, unable to process how ridiculous this guy was. That he’d be talking shit about Donovan in front of us. We couldn’t help but laugh, not at what he was saying but at his cluelessness. I was already on shaky ground with Donovan, and as much as I wanted Davis’ contract, it didn’t come close to how much I wanted Donovan. Davis was treading in sinking sand and none of us were gonna pull him out. I was still staring at Kurt, thinking about the day dad had taken us all to watch a baseball game and tried to justify my sexuality by saying I just like a tight ass. My father has said a lot of really ridiculous things in my life but that topped them all. On the plus side, we’ve gotten a lot of mileage from that ignorant statement. We were still laughing when I they noticed the smirk on my face. “Well...yeah, I mean—I’m not a fag or anything, I just like a tight ass. We were the only ones at the table that were in on the joke and we were about to lose our shit over it, like we did every time one of us said it, when I saw Donovan. According to the look on his face, it was obvious he’d heard (at least) a little of our conversation. I knew I was fucked the second I saw him. I wanted to stove everyone out of my way and rush to him and explain the conversation. If he heard my tight ass comment I knew he’d never give me the time of day. Instead of doing something noble, I sat there terrified, totally mute, as he put on a pretty decent exit show, including a spot on impersonation of Ross and Rachel’s “We’re So Over” fight. A few minutes after he’d stormed off my brain started to function again so I grabbed my jacket and started to make my way out of the booth. “I’m going to go talk to him and clear the air.” Drew stopped me. “I think you should let him cool off, first.” I disagreed. I didn’t think this was something that could wait, but they held me back. I sat back and glared at everyone—I wanted to punch them, Drew specifically! He loved to interfere with Donovan and me and he really loved to side with Donovan. Deep down, I knew I shouldn’t have listened to them and I should’ve gone after Donovan to straighten everything out, but as I always did, I second-guessed myself—if the three of them said I shouldn’t, then it was probably the right choice, right? “Fine, but I’m skipping tomorrow so I can fix things with Donovan.” Again, everyone shook their heads no. “No way! This is our annual family reunion, you’re not going to skip it for some boy!” “You make it sound like I’m sixteen! Guess what, I’m not and Donovan’s not some boy.” I hadn’t ever had feelings for anyone the way I did for Donovan, and we hadn’t even been dating long. He’d challenged me and pushed me outside of my comfort zone, in all of the good ways. Maybe my friends didn’t see it, but it didn’t matter. I’d had enough! I wasn’t going to sit there for a minute longer and feel worse than I already did so, with haste, I continued to move out of the booth so I could go home. Drew put his hand on my chest in an attempt to stop me. “Where are you going? You know you can’t go to his house.” “Why? Because you have plans to go, instead? Get out of my way. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” I threw his hand off of my chest and walked out. By the time I got home, I was furious with everyone, including myself. I felt like the Hulk as I stormed around my shell of a house, ripped the plastic off of my bed, pulled the spare sheets out of storage, and brought my travel bag in from the truck. I was stripping down when I heard my phone chirp, indicating an incoming text. Donovan! My heart raced as I slipped my shoes back on, ran to the kitchen where I’d left my phone, and swiped my phone. [Davis] Hey good looking. If you want company tonight let me know It would’ve been the best text ever…if it wasn’t from Davis! I wanted to throw my phone, but that wouldn’t have solved anything, in fact, it would’ve only added to my frustration. Plus, I’d never know if Donovan had tried to get in touch. Instead, I ignored Davis, crawled into bed, and thought about Donovan. I didn’t sleep as I debated whether or not to ditch the reunion the following day, so I could see Donovan. Of course, as it turned out, that wouldn’t have worked because he was at the reunion. *** *** *** *** The whole day was a joke. First, I found out that Donovan was Donny Allerton. I cannot count how many times I wanked to his google pictures back in the day. He looked different now; ten years older and less muscular, but still hot as fuck. I couldn’t believe I dated him. Not only that, but he was friends with our grandfathers, in my co-ed league, and he’d kicked our asses. I’d fucked him and fucked things up with him. I followed him around with my eyes, upset that I couldn’t talk to him. There were a thousand reasons why, which included the fact my entire family was there, including my dad, but mostly Donovan wanted nothing to do with me. It was hard to watch him interact with my family knowing I couldn’t be by his side. It wasn’t just me, he wouldn’t talk to the rest of DAKS either. I felt like such outsider by the end of the day. Most of my family were ignoring me, my dad crossed a line, DAKS were pushing me to fix things for their own selfish reasons, and I missed Donovan--who left shortly after the game. I left as soon as I could slip out unnoticed, and went straight to his house. I was tired of being told I needed to wait. Every minute I wasted was another minute I didn’t get to be with him and the further and further away he became. Of course, he wasn’t alone. Why would he be? That would’ve meant something was going my way and that was plain, fucking crazy! Oh, no, all of the DONNAs were there and they were all drunk, especially Donovan. Not wanting to dig myself any deeper, I didn’t acknowledge the fact that seeing nearly-naked Donovan wearing a tiny pair of eighties-inspired, boy short undies was what my fantasies were made of. The maroon, with white trim, undies beautifully contrasted against his dark-olive, sun-kissed, smooth, flawless, and perfect skin as they hugged his tight waist and lean thighs. Donovan, Donny Allerton, wearing sexy boy shorts. Yeah. He looked good. The mud mask was definitely funny, but he still looked hot. He was drunk, though, and being drunk, especially with an audience, was a terrible scenario so I left when he asked me to leave, but if he thought he’d seen the last of me, he was going to be disappointed. I was good at that, disappointing people, but I wanted to fight for Donovan. I didn’t think he’d give me another chance, and I knew I didn’t deserve one, but I was going to fight for one anyway. People worse than I, get chances like a cat with nine lives. I drove back to his house the next afternoon—unlike the night before, Allé’s van was gone, so that was good. I got out and knocked on the door a few times. Either he was ignoring me or he was gone. I was counting on the latter. I’d been so focused on the door, I hadn’t heard the car pull up. “Looking for someone?” I turned to find the strangest person I’d ever met…Allé. He was wearing courduroy, flared pants with an orange and red, paisley shirt. According to Donovan, I didn’t have a great fashion sense so I had no right to judge. “I was hoping to talk to Donovan, but—” “But he’s not here. Work stuff,” he looked unamused. “Of course, work stuff.” Duh. He’d always worked on Sundays. I tapped my fist into the palm of my hand as I walked back to my truck. It was fine, I’d try again. You know what they say—if at first you don’t succeed, stalk them until they get a restraining order against you. “I’m supposed to go to brunch with him on Wednesday. The plan is to meet here at ten. I have a feeling I’m going to be busy. I’ll probably send him a text around ten after, to let him know I’m bailing. It’d be a shame if he didn’t have anyone to go with.” He dropped a manila envelope through the mail slot on the door then walked back to his car, which was parked behind my truck. Was he actually giving me a leg up? I watched him with uncertainty as he met my gaze and smiled before reiterating. “Wednesday. At ten.” He actually gave me an in. Donovan might have Allé’s balls for what he did, but that strange man was actually helping me out. For the first time all weekend, I smiled as I stepped off of the curb and, with a smile, pounded my hood as I walked to the driver’s side of my truck. “Wednesday at ten!” I shouted back. *** *** *** *** As frustrated as I was with Friday and Saturday, Sunday’s brief conversation with Allé had given me hope. It didn’t mean Donovan would respond, but it’d give me time within his schedule to try. Not wanting to get out of bed yet, I looked at my phone once more. [Davis] Breakfast? Fuck no, you idiot! [Shane] I’m already working so I’ll see you for our one o’clock meeting That was a lie, of course, although I did have some very important things to do. I needed to win back Donovan. *** *** *** *** The only good thing about Davis was the fact he didn’t require a suit and tie for meetings. Business casual was my favorite working attire. Normally, I didn’t put much effort into my outfits (unlike Donovan) because frankly, I didn’t care. Today was different. There was a one-in-three chance the hospital I might get to work on was Donovan’s workplace. For the life of me I couldn’t remember which hospital he worked. I wasn’t going to stalk him, but if there was a chance I might run into him, I wanted to look good. It was a no brainer to wear the dark-wash jeans he’d picked out—the ones that led to the epic, mirrored blow job—a cream shirt and green blazer (tied together with a leather belt), and shoes. I didn’t too look bad. On the way to the hospital, I wondered how I could casually stroll through the pediatric areas. Were they close to where I was going to be? Were they accessible to the general public? Would it be part of the included tour? If so, how would Donovan react if he saw me? Would he make a scene in front of my potential bosses? Did I care? By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I was a hot mess. But nothing prepared me for how I’d feel when I spotted Donovan’s white 4Runner in the parking lot. Samaritan was his hospital and he was working, so I blasted the AC and tried to cool off so I wouldn’t be a sweaty, nervous mess when I walked in. I psyched myself up on the way through to parking lot. I needed to focus on the meeting and then, afterward, I could casually run into Donovan. Fuck. I was so distracted by the thoughts of Donovan that I’d forgotten all of my paperwork in the truck, so I jogged back, grabbed it, and then hustled back to the building. So much for the AC cool down. I was almost to the building when I spotted a stray German Shepherd that donned a blue vest and, after a quick glance around, no one to claim him, which was strange for a service dog since they weren’t usually too far from their master. I wanted to give him a good rub down, but when a service dog is wearing its vest, that means they’re on duty and it’s frowned upon to overly pet them. As I snapped my fingers and pointed to the ground, I commanded. “Sit.” I smiled as he obediently sat and debated whether or not to leave him while I went to my meeting or take him to the front desk. I was interrupted before I came to a decision. “Moscow! You sneaky pup.” I turned around and came face to face with brilliant green eyes and perfect brown hair. It took him a second to realize it was me, and when he did, he didn’t look all that happy about it. His disappointment didn’t stop me from smiling when I saw him. Then I smiled a little more when I caught his eyes roaming down my body. “I didn’t know you had a service dog.” His eyes narrowed. “I don’t. I bring service dogs to visit kids in the Oncology unit, you know, just doing my part to embarrass all of the normal gays of the world.” I cringed. I hadn’t expected that comment and I hated that he had that kind of ammunition, but I totally deserved it. It was my fault. Donovan hooked a leash onto the dog and started to walk inside so I followed. “I deserved that.” “I know, that’s why I said it.” “You have every right to hate me.” “I know, that’s why I do.” He wasn’t make it easy, that’s for sure. He punched level five on the elevator—I needed six—so I waited with him. “Could we get lunch or coffee? Or just ten minutes to talk?” His features softened as he actually thought about it while he looked down at Moscow, who was sitting perfectly next to Donovan's leg. Donovan was wearing scrubs covered with dogs—very fitting. No doubt, he’d planned that out. After the world’s shortest elevator ride, we stopped and the door opened on level five. Donovan tugged Moscow’s leash to indicate they were leaving, but paused and turned toward me. I could tell, by the hurt and angry look on his face, his answer wasn’t going to be favorable. “I’m pretty busy. You know, being a fag and all.” He tugged on the leash again and Moscow followed him out as he carelessly waved over his shoulder. “See you around, Shane.” I’d royally fucked things up. If the contempt that oozed off of him was anything to go by, I had a lot of work ahead of me. If I’d thought too long or hard on it, I would’ve been easily overwhelmed, instead, I’d decided to take it day by day. I just needed to focus on small goals, such as having a conversation without him throwing all of my failures into my face or not looking as if sharing oxygen with me might kill him. Baby steps. Wednesday, at ten. *** *** *** *** I did it. I got the contract. It took eight signatures from seven different people, but it was mine and it was time to rub shoulders. It’s annoying how that works. People who’d barely had it within themselves to say two words to me before, were suddenly patting me on the back and shaking my hand as old friends would. The glass double doors on the other side of the room were open. It was my ticket to leave, but since no one was in a hurry to leave, getting there would’ve been problematic. I felt yet another hand on my lower back as they swooped in from behind me. “Congratulations, Mr. Kelly!” Davis’ tone was more seductive than it should’ve been and his body was closer than I would’ve ever voluntarily chosen for it to be. A shiver of disgust ran down my spine and I felt like scum for emotionally whoring myself out for the job. I’d allowed his creepiness to slide so I could get the contract, and then regretted it. If it weren’t for the giant check they’d handed me after signing, I would’ve walked out. Fortunately for me, I could put up with a lot of things for big checks. “We should celebrate with dinner and drinks. Maybe even a late start tomorrow morning.” He winked after his repulsive suggestion. I glanced at the doors again and wondered which would be less obvious—taking a running start, sliding across the conference table like Jason Statham, and running for freedom, or shatter one of the floor-to-ceiling windows with a chair and jump to my death. If either had been an option, I would’ve done it. I tried to school my features so I’d look less like I’d rather jump to my death and more like I was disappointed that my schedule was conflicting. “As great as that sounds (which it didn’t), I actually have plans tonight. Plus, I doubt Donovan would be keen to it and besides, as you know, I’m currently in the dog house.” Davis dramatically rolled his eyes and smirked. In another life, one where Davis wasn’t overly creepy and gross, he and Donovan might’ve actually been friends. “No offense, but I’d hardly call getting dumped in public the dog house. I mean, have you even talked to him since Friday night?” “I was at his house Sunday. I also saw him this morning before the meeting.” His confident smirk morphed into a frown as my words sank in. I wasn’t interested in filling in the gaps with the truth. I wanted him to make assumptions that weren’t favorable to him—or us. Davis opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted when I was dragged away. “Mr. Kelly, I have a few people I’d like you to meet.” He pulled me to a small group of men who were heads of various departments that would be affected by the project. There had been talk of taking a tour of the hospital and the areas that would be under construction, but we ran out of time so we settled for introductions. It was the last man, Mr. Humphrey, who caught my attention. He was the head of Pediatric Oncology and I’d realized I was shaking his hand with more sincerity than the others. “On my way here, I rode the elevator up with one of your staff members who was on his way to Oncology to surprise the kids with a service dog. I thought that was a great idea.” “I would have loved to see the look on their faces! Donovan’s always going above and beyond for those kids.” He looked at his watch and rocked his head back and forth as he contemplated something in his head. “He’s supposed to be there for another thirty minutes. I always enjoy being there for special events like this, but I missed it since I was here. I was planning on stopping by on my way out, if you want to join me.” “That’d be amazing. If it’s not too much to ask,” I smiled, excited, yet nervous to see Donovan again. “My pleasure.” I could tell by the look on his face, it really was. “That sounds fantastic, I’d love to go, also. You know, kids and dogs,” he sang as he slid himself into our conversation. His going along would ruin everything. I was walking on broken glass already and showing up to Donovan’s work place, with Davis, wouldn’t have benefited me at all. Hoping they’d take the bait, I suggested. “Is it a good idea for a lot of people to walk through there at the same time, with all of those compromised immune systems and all? It seems like a bad idea. You guys go ahead and I’ll just wait until another day.” “You’re absolutely right. We don’t want to overwhelm them. Davis, since you’ve been there before, I’ll take Mr. Kelly,” Mr. Humphrey responded. Davis frowned and watched as we said our goodbyes and left the conference room. We took the elevator down and Mr. Humphrey signed us in at the front desk before we were buzzed through the secured double doors and, as we walked, he talked about his vision for the hospital and pointed out some of the potential changes he’d like to see. The walls were colorful and full of fun paintings that ranged from professional to those that were obviously done by the kids. As we made our way down the hall, I’d glanced into some of the rooms and noticed most of the residents were missing. It wasn’t long before I found them, as we turned the corner into a giant recreational/living room with couches, big bean bags, games, books, toys, televisions, and everything kids could dream of. Every spot was filled with kids. Some had IV bags hanging behind them, some were in wheelchairs, and some were sitting without restrictions. Moscow was lying on the floor, with several kids surrounding him, but no one paid him attention. Nope, everyone was paying attention to a good looking nurse wearing puppy scrubs. The hot nurse raised a small remote and started the music. Everyone was smiling and laughing as Donovan and his three minions started swaying to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. I didn’t look away as Mr. Humphrey nudged my arm, moving us toward the show, and excitedly said. “You’re in for a real treat. Donovan is a crowd favorite and is always putting on a good show. Come on, you won’t want to miss this!” Just as every performance I’d seen before, this was just as flawless. His moves were smooth and perfectly timed, and his face was happy and expressive. What the kids had lacked in technical skill, they made up for by being adorable. Donovan was so engrossed in the kids and the dance that we were able to watch the routine completely unnoticed. When it was over, he used the remote to pause the music before speaking to the crowd. “Okay, lazy bones! Get up and show me what you’ve got!” As he motioned for them to get up, some of the kids happily jumped up while others moaned and groaned, but slowly made their way. I turned my head in surprise as Mr. Humphrey’s voice boomed over the crowd. “Do you mind if I join?” He asked the small crowd, then smiled as he walked toward the kids and nodded for me to join. I shook my head and found a nice spot to awkwardly stand. Donovan smiled. “Of course! It’s always a pleasure when you join us, Nick.” As Donovan smiled at Mr. Humphrey (Nick), he also looked at me as if to ask, ‘what the fuck are you doing here?’ I smiled broadly and tried to play the cute-and-innocent-one by waving to him with my fingers, which he didn’t find amusing. It wasn’t a total loss, I did receive a class Donovan eye roll. Once again, Nick tried to get me to join in. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the dance, everybody knows Thriller, but it was more the fact that my “spirit animal” was a hippopotamus, and not ones in Disney movies that could dance. I shook my head and gestured that I was perfectly comfortable where I was. “Do we let strangers watch and not participate?” Donovan asked the kids. A roar rang in response to his question. “No!” “What do we do when strangers won’t dance with us?” The next thing I knew, I was being pulled to the stage area by a mob of small people. I could’ve easily overpowered them, but it was frowned upon to beat up kids undergoing cancer treatment, which only left me with one option—to join them. As they shoved me into the lineup, I looked at Donovan to find him smiling at me—well, not so much smiling as smirking, but still—he appeared to be quite happy with his ability to manipulate me into dancing. If dancing made him happy, then I’d dance. He started the music and everyone began moving. I was prepared for him to play Thriller, again, but I was wrong. Instead, we were listening to remax version of Little Einstein’s theme song. It’s one thing to dance to a familiar song, it was quite another to try to dance to a song I’d only ever heard when hanging with my nieces and nephews. Just as I knew would happen, I’d stumbled over my own feet, and a few innocent children, as I tried to follow along. I was a few counts behind on every move and missed every transition. By the time I’d caught on to waving my hands in the air, they’d already moved on to the next move. I was a few rows in front of Donovan so I couldn’t see him, but I felt his eyes on me as he watched me fail, miserably. On the other hand, I had a perfect view of Nick and it was obvious, by his moves, it wasn’t his first rodeo. For an old guy, he could dance quite well to children’s songs. I sighed with relief when the song finally ended and the room erupted into applause as the kids dispersed around the room. Nick laughed as he squeezed my shoulder, “Well, you tried!” “Yeah, well, I’m not exactly fluent in children’s song and dance,” I laughed at myself. “You were great. Kids don’t care if you’re good, they only care that you’ll try. Come on, I want to introduce you.” I followed him toward Donovan, who was talking and laughing with a few of the older kids. Their conversation ended when they noticed us approaching. One blonde boy in particular, had watched me with interest. Nick introduced me to Donovan and his three amigos—Calvin (the overly interested blonde), Evan, and Owen. Calvin’s eyes widened with amusement. “You’re Shane! Shane, from the videos and Snapchats! I thought you looked familiar!” I had no idea what he was talking about. Videos? I’ve never been in a video. Snapchat? I didn’t have one of those. “I can’t believe I’m meeting Donovan’s boyfriend!” Calvin exclaimed. My head snapped up and all thoughts of videos and secret Snapchats disappeared. Donovan had talked about me? They knew about me? I turned my attention to Donovan, who looked slightly uncomfortable, and smiled. Nick looked between us with confusion and amusement. “I didn’t realize you two were dating.” Donovan opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. He’d panicked and I knew he wasn’t going to correct the situation, not in front of everyone. “It’s only been a month or so, nothing serious,” I offered with a genuine smile and a nonchalant shrug. “Nothing serious my butt! You’re in every single video that Donovan shows us. Plus, his Snapchat might as well be called Shanesnap since you’re the only thing he ever Snaps or has on his story.” I chuckled as I watched Donovan avoid my gaze. He was always so confident and sure of himself, so I allowed myself to enjoy watching him squirm as a preteen unknowingly revealed all of his secrets. My insides fluttered from knowing he’d found me captivating enough to share with others. All of the times we’d been together, he’d secretly taken videos and pictures and sent them to his friends, including his patients—that’s how much he’d liked me. That alone made up for the total disregard for my privacy. The blonde was oblivious to Donovan’s not-so-subtle gestures to shut the hell up, so I asked him. “What kind of videos were they?” He looked at his friends, as if they’d help jog his memory, and smiled, “Well, most of them are of your butt. According to Snapchat, Donovan’s obsessed with your butt.” Once again, my eyes snapped to Donovan, who was desperately shaking his head at Calvin and his friends, but that didn’t slow the kid down as he held up his fingers and started to count with them. “There was the superzoom of your butt when you were catching, another one, of your butt, when you were running bases while he played the “Bubble Butt” song in the background, a few boomerangs of you eating and working out, a cute one of you setting the dinner table, and a morning—” Donovan tried to push him away, “Okay, I think he gets it. Go be annoying elsewhere.” Calvin slipped from his grip with a smile and continued. “Nurse Doo Doo always talks about you. He says you’re kind of a stupid boy, but you tick his boxes, so—” Donovan tried to interrupt. He was not amused by the conversation, but no one paid attention to him. “Oh, my god! Will you hoodlums shut up?!” I looked at the boys, quizzically, and asked, “What boxes?” “You know! Requirements for dating someone. There are negotiables, like having all your teeth, a driver's license that’s not suspended, and a bank account that’s not overdrawn.” He paused as he tried to remember more so Owen practically shouted. “Soft hands!” Calvin informed Owen that it was considered a non-negotiable and he won’t budge on those. I looked at Donovan with surprise. Soft hands? That’s a requirement? I’d have to make sure I moisturized more often if it was going to be that big of a deal. What else did I need to know? Being happy to gain as much insight as possible, I inquired. “What are some other non-negotiables?” “Nothing that you know anything about!” Donovan covered Calvin’s mouth with his hand. He’d tried, unsuccessfully, to push them away. Instead, they started to laugh and Evan decided to pick up where his friend had left off. “I can’t remember his non-negotiables, but with the way he goes on and on about you, I don’t think you have anything to worry about…or maybe you do?” he raised his brow. “For weeks, it’s been Shane this and Shane that, until last week when he got super mopey. He said something about you ghosting him? Will you stop ghosting him already because he’s annoying when he’s not happy?” His expression was a mixture of seriousness, about not wanting Donovan to be mopey, yet, he laughed as he dodged Donovan’s attempts to silence him. Maybe they weren’t as oblivious as I’d thought. I laughed as I watched Donovan try to control the situation, but I felt terrible because I knew I’d been such an ass to him. It wasn’t only the fact I’d run out of his house a week ago and ignored him, or even what I’d let happen Friday. I had baggage and issues that would drop me from his list in a heartbeat. “Okay, that’s enough, everyone. Back to your rooms!” This time Donovan wasn’t messing around and Nick had his back. He shooed everyone away and they scattered like birds in every direction before slowly making their way to wherever they belonged. As I awkwardly stood there, I watched Nick and Donovan usher kids around and do whatever it was they did. I could’ve left, but I wasn’t ready. I knew Donovan was upset, but it was as good of a time as any to at least try to get somewhere with him. I sat on one of the couches and watched Donovan as he interacted with a mixture of grace and confidence that only he could manage. Fifteen minutes had passed before everything appeared to be settled and Donovan passed by. He abruptly stopped after he realized I was still there and had no intention of leaving. “Why are you still here? Do I need to file a restraining order or something?” He stood in front of me, the way a football coach would while giving a serious lecture; his feet shoulder-width apart and both hands firmly holding a metal storage-clipboard over his genitals. Even angry and hostile, he looked good. His brown hair was styled in a quiff and his lean arms were lightly flexed as he gripped his clipboard. “Since I was invited here by your boss, I doubt that’s necessary.” Donovan’s hard look softened as he sighed and shifted his body until he was hugging his clipboard against his chest and his green eyes were almost pleading. “Seriously, Shane. What are you doing?” “Seriously?” He nodded. “I want to talk. I really, really want to talk.” “There’s nothing to talk about.” “There’s lots to talk about. At least, there’s lots for me to explain.” “There’s nothing I want to hear.” “How do you know? You have no idea what I have to say.” “Excuses, lots of excuses.” I let out an annoyed sigh. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.” “Then I guess we won’t be finding out.” His eyes narrowed with defiance as I stood up so we were chest to chest. “It’s not a negotiation.” He opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. “You have every reason to write me off and I have no doubt you will, but not until I have a chance to talk. It doesn’t matter how much you resist, we’re going to talk sooner or later, just accept it.” I wasn’t angry, but I wasn’t exactly happy about Donovan’s attitude, either, regardless of what I deserved. Donovan pursed his lips, but didn’t say anything. I took a moment to let my eyes wander across his gorgeous face, especially the curve of his slender nose and the contour of his cheekbone. I’d missed him terribly and it took all of my self-control to not caress his cheek with my thumb. I wish I could’ve gone back one week. If I could’ve done it again, I never would’ve yelled at him and stormed out of his house. I would’ve stayed and explained everything but, in the moment, I didn’t think he’d understand. Yeah, I’d been stupid before, but leaving that morning was the one regret that’d changed everything—the “what if” of all of my scenarios. “Please?” I half begged. So much for not negotiating. “Maybe. We’ll see.” “Okay. Maybe is a start,” I smiled. Donovan rolled his eyes. “Maybe is only maybe.” I decided it was time to leave while I was ahead—progress was going to come in small doses and I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. I’d never thought that way before. Relationships were convenient and nice, but I’d never tried to make them work before. Either they were a relationship or they weren’t—it was black or white, no grey. Living in the grey with Donovan had been different and it made me feel as though I had something to strive for, someone to be my best for—a future.
  12. Technically, yes. But when has life ever been black and white. Just because the law says you can do something, doesn't mean you have to feel good about it.

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