Just a reminder, Part two mirrors part one, just from Bailey's POV. It's a little different than I usually write my chapters, and I hope it doesn't seem too boring as you kinda know (at least from Declan's pov) what will be coming. So while basic scenes where Bailey interacted with Declan will be similar, I'm hoping they feel different from Bailey's pov. Enjoy!
Ripped Part 2--Bailey
"What is this?"
Bailey glanced down at his hands, rubbing his thumb over the thick calluses created from years on the bars."I thought I did better than that."It was an excuse; he knew that, but telling his mom he hadn't been able to focus lately wasn't much better.
"What do you think your father would have said if he saw this C-?" his mother waved the test in his face.
Oh, God.He gasped, feeling like he had been punched in the gut.
"He spent years fighting for our country and you can't even bother to do your job and get decent grades?" she accused."To honor his memory?"
"Hey, Bailey, you okay over there?" The weight room supervisor's concerned tone jerked him from his reverie.Rodney.Crap, that was still happening.It had been over two months and he still got lost in his memories.The only things that kept it at bay were his gymnastics, running, and... well, it—but nobody could find out about that.
He dropped his hand from the pull down bar.He'd apparently just been laying on the bench, holding the bar in his hands when Rodney had noticed.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm... I'm fine," he cleared his throat as he sat up on the bench. He turned to see Justin's dark eyes were squinting at him, worried, as well as Mateo and Owen who were next to him.Fortunately, no one moved to touch him—he hated to be touched ever since...At least, Luke and Cameron were on the other side of the weight room joking around so they hadn't seen his space-out."I think I'll just stretch for a bit."
"Okay." Rodney nodded and wandered toward Cameron and Luke.
Bailey moved to the open mats on the side of the room where the free weights lined the wall.He wasn't terribly surprised when Justin followed him.
Bailey was intent on ignoring his team captain, even if the guy was one of the most well-meaning guys he'd met here at Heritage.Actually, Justin was the guy he most looked up to at Heritage, not because he was the team captain, but because he was also gay—and he was accepted.Heritage had shocked him with its Diversity and Acceptance Policy.
And Justin truly cared about his team and teammates.While Bailey was new this semester and horribly introverted, his new team had welcomed him without exception.
Any other time, Bailey would probably have been ecstatic at the profound change from the way he'd been treated at his previous schools.But the Colonel—and some other person, a chaplain or something—showing up on their doorstep three days before he started school had changed Bailey's life forever.
"I'm so sorry, son.Your father was a good man..."
He hadn't heard anything else as he'd run.Run to his new school that he'd been so excited to start—that his father had been so excited for him to start.A new beginning, he'd said, when he'd moved them here on his last leave of absence.
And he'd run and run, for hours on that empty track, his heart pounding, his eyes blurred with tears, his throat raw.Until he'd collapsed in a heap.
He had to face this new school in a new town without his father's guidance, without his support, without his love.
His dad had been so damn excited to find Heritage as well as the beautiful house less than a half mile away.Bailey knew his father had been worried about him over the last two years—being bullied, teased, harassed for being gay and a gymnast.Bailey knew it broke his father's heart that he was away while his son was struggling, so he'd tried to hide it—keeping his emails and skype sessions cheerful and upbeat.But his dad had known somehow, and he'd worked to find a new town, a new school where Bailey could fit in.
His dad had found it in Heritage Academy.They had loved the place at first sight—the beautifully kept grounds, the well maintained track and fields, the updated gyms, the modern dorms, and the technology-enhanced classrooms.However, it was the school's academic record and especially its Diversity and Acceptance policy that had truly drawn them both in.
Bailey had been excited to start school this year.After moving at the beginning of the summer, and having his father around for two full months before redeployment, he'd been in heaven.He and his dad had spent nearly every day squeezing in their 'father-son' time into his leave.
"Bay, it's okay, if you need a break, just go."Justin squeezed his shoulder briefly before Bailey rolled his shoulder to free himself of the touch.Justin nodded understandingly.His team knew what had happened, so they understood his standoffish attitude, even as they were constantly trying to make him feel welcome.
"I just... got lost for a few minutes," Bailey finally admitted, earning several sympathetic smiles."I'm good.I'll just stretch for a few minutes before getting back to the weights.I know we only have the room for an hour."
Justin reached his hand out to pat his back, but dropped his hand at the last second, changing it to a clap as he laughed."Yeah, with this damn storm, every team is scrambling for space and getting stir crazy.Once you get back to the rings and bars, you'll be good to go."
"As if he needs more practice," Cameron quipped.
Bailey frowned."Why wouldn't I?"
"Dude, you're awesome!I can't wait for our first meet.We are going to blow the other teams out of the water this year!"
Bailey felt his cheeks flush.He knew when he'd first started with the team that he had several skills that most of his team didn't—after all, he'd been doing gymnastics for over ten years, since he was six.He'd been worried about getting the cold-shoulder, that they'd think he was snobby or something.Yet, they'd been so welcoming he often lapsed into morose thoughts because his father wasn't here to see his son finally being accepted somewhere.
Instead, he'd spent all his time at Heritage silent in the back of the classrooms, trying to pay attention, or at the gym.The Dean had offered Bailey the option of living off campus for the semester after the news of his father's death, and Bailey had taken it to make sure his mother wasn't left alone now.
He knew she'd always planned to be alone while he was in the dorms, but knowing his father had been killed and would never be coming home, changed things.Bailey needed to be there for her, even if she'd become obsessive and demanding about Bailey's success.Bailey figured it was how she was coping with her grief.
"Yeah!We're gonna win!We're gonna win!" Owen and Mateo started chanting, bringing a small smile to Bailey's face.
His team was pretty goofy.
Rodney abruptly cursed under his breath, and Bailey looked up to see him pulling his cell phone from his pocket.He barely got out a 'hello' out before a hysterical female voice erupted from the phone.
Rodney sucked in a startled breath."Mom, mom, wait.Wait.I can't really hear you."He pulled the phone from his ear."Hey, guys, my mom's really upset about something, and I can't hear her—"
"No problem," Justin said."Do you mind if we just stretch on the mat here until you come back?"
Rodney bit his lip, looking them over.The rest of the team joined Bailey on mats by the door."Yeah, I guess that would be alright."
Bailey dropped over his straight legs to his knees in a pike stretch, still shaking his head.He allowed the slow pulling on his muscles to keep him focused.Just breathe, he told himself.Don't think.Focus on the delicious ache.
Cam and Luke joined him on the floor, while Justin Mateo and Owen did some standing stretches.
"Hey, Greene.Where's Rodney?"
Bailey looked up see a horde of teens crowding into the weight room door.He recognized a few of them from classes he had with them, and he realized this must be the football team.
"He had to take an emergency call.So we had to stop for a bit.Cell signal sucks in here, especially with the storm and all," Justin explained, turning to face the group of bulky guys.
One of the football players stood in front of the rest, his hands on his hips like he owned the place.He wasn't the biggest of the group, but it was obvious he was in charge.Bailey thought maybe he was the quarterback—at least, in his experience, that was who tended to lead the football team.Bailey guessed this guy was probably even the team captain.
"Time's up then.Get out."
Bailey barely glanced up from his position on the floor when more of the herd of football players crowded into the weight room.He didn't care about whatever reason they'd decided to show up.
"What the fuck?" Justin snapped, as he turned, matching intruder's pose.
Bailey cringed slightly as he buried his face in his knees.There was no way Justin was going to put up with whatever these guys thought they were doing.After over a month of no issues, he was a little surprised to see these guys try to intimidate Justin and the gymnastics team—his team.
"Can you guys even pick up a twenty-pound barbell?"he heard one of the guys snipe.
Cameron and Luke jumped up to stand with Justin, Owen and Mateo.Bailey was the only one left stretching on the floor.
"We can do plenty, Chris," Owen growled.
"Yeah, that one's so weak, he's still layin' on the floor."
"Screw you, Eric," Mateo sneered.
Fuck.They had to be talking about him.Bailey barely peeked through the long black strands falling over his face.Several of them were staring in his direction.Geez, there were some big guys.And hell, standing there in their baggy gym shorts and barely-there tank tops, Bailey had to admit they were pretty ripped too—all thick muscle and brute strength.
Just ignore them, he told himself.Justin would deal with them.
"Chris, what the hell are you doing here?" Justin demanded as the rest of the gymnastics team flanked their captain.Bailey had a moment of wondering if he should join them, but he was the smallest of his teammates; he'd probably only make the rest of them laugh.
"Beat it, Greene.And take all your pansy-ass gym flippers with you."
Bailey bit his lip as he hid his face.It certainly wasn't the most vulgar of taunts he'd ever heard.It was rather mild actually.So maybe this was just more a display of power.
Of course, Bailey knew Justin well enough to know there was no way he'd back down in the face of such stupid intimidation tactics.
"Bet you'd like to get a hold of my pansy ass, huh, Vasser?"The laughter that followed Justin's flippant remark echoed on both sides of the weight room.Justin was one of several gay students at this school, which had made Bailey feel more at ease here, because it just wasn't much of an issue.
"You wish," Chris retorted."If I wanted some ass, I'd go for the little guy there."
Oh, shit.Bailey froze as he noticed Chris was pointing at him. Was he serious?
Justin and his teammates seemed to tighten ranks. "Get your ass out of here, Chris, and take your Neanderthals with you," Justin growled."We are on the schedule for the weight room until 4:30.You can come back then and bully the next team out of here."
"Leave, or we'll carry each of you out."
"Feel free to try."
"Whoa, wait a minute," one of the football players jumped in, and Bailey breathed a momentary sigh of relief.Thank God, one of them had a brain."You know our coaches will suspend anyone who gets into a fight.So knock it off.And Rodney will probably be back any time now."
"Yeah, Justin, let's just ignore them," Owen agreed.
"They don't get to come in here and threaten us or insult one of our teammates.No matter how popular or stupid they are," Cameron snapped.
"That's true.But you know Coach Richards will have our ass if you get into it with these guys."
The peacemaker stared down at the boy called Chris."You know Coach Reed will too, Chris.Maybe you should let it go this time."
Chris glanced over at Justin before turning slightly. "It's not like any of you wimps could stand up to any of us anyway.We'd wipe the floor with you."
Bailey felt his breathing speed up when the rest of his team bristled.This was going to get ugly, fast.He forced his body to stretch even farther, using his arms to block out whatever was being said.Just focus on gymnastics, just focus on gymnastics, he repeated to himself, ignoring the bantering between the two teams.He couldn't let the fear win, as it often did.
"...you, work hard?Doing what?Swinging on a bar?Hanging on some rings?Bouncing around the floor?" Chris was taunting Bailey's teammates still, and Bailey began to hope Rodney showed back up any minute.
"We use just as many, if not more, muscles than you pigheaded jerks do.Anyone of us could beat you in a test of strength endurance."That was Cameron.He could tell from the slightly southern accent.
"Prove it.Right here, right now," Chris challenged.
A silence fell over the room, and Bailey glanced up to see his own teammates considering it."Fine," Justin finally said, "what do you suggest?"
"A contest.A show of strength and endurance.One of your guys against one of mine.Opposite team picks the player," Chris smirked, and Bailey wondered what he was planning.Whatever it was, wouldn't be good.Justin would never let Chris win, not after his arrogant boasting.
Bailey vaguely heard them going back and forth about what the contest should entail and Justin had picked some big guy in the back, but by now, Bailey was just ready to let the football team have the room so they could get to their equipment in Aux 2.His fingers were just itching to get on the bars.
Which reminded him... he glanced down at his hands.The small spot on the edge of his right palm was showing signs of a blister.He'd have to watch it today or it might rip open.He probably needed to consider new grips...
"...we pick him."
Bailey sensed eyes on him before he even glanced up to see everyone staring at him again.The arrogant quarterback was grinning uncontrollably as Justin glared back at him.
"He's new to the team..." Justin hedged.
" So?He's still part of your team.We picked, that was the deal.It's him or you forfeit."
Damn.Bailey dropped his head again.He hated drawing attention to himself.Justin knew this, knew how painfully shy and quiet he was.Fuck, he just wanted to be left alone to do his gymnastics, study, and... not think.Was that too fucking much to ask?
It wasn't that he couldn't do physical activities.He was actually quite good at them, exceptional even.He just liked to keep the exhibition of his skills to gymnastics meets.
But Justin and his teammates were smiling.Of course they knew he could do pretty much anything they asked.He wished he'd been paying attention more to the conversation so he knew what he was expected to do.
"Bailey!" Justin called."Hey, buddy, come on over here for a minute."
Reluctantly, he rose, barely glancing at the football guys.Justin started to wrap an arm over his shoulders, but Bailey edged away.Justin smiled understandingly and gave him a simple quick pat on the back."Bailey, we need you to do a few pushups, so we can all get back to practice in peace, okay?"
Bailey bit his lip and nodded, if it'd get these guys to shut-up and leave, he'd do anything.Push-ups were easy.If he'd been asked to bench press 300 pounds, that might have been an issue.He tugged at his over-size shirt before slipping into a plank position on the mat.He dropped into his first push-up.
"Wait!" Justin yelled, and Bailey froze as he glanced up to see Justin pointing at Chris and another teen."Get into position."
One of the other football players took his place on the floor next to him—Declan, Bailey thought his name was, and was sure the guy was in his Trigonometry class. Bailey raked his eyes appraisingly over the other teen, clearly seeing his strong abs and thick biceps from the cut out arm holes of his shirt.Damn, he was good-looking.Bailey debated even trying at all, but then he couldn't let down his team either.Maybe just a few push-ups, just to make it look good...
Bailey fell into a steady pace of pushups.This was an exercise that had been drilled into him since he was five.He'd done them with his father daily on any leaves he had.Or running with him.Fuck, he was missing his father already.
He almost faltered as his stomach clenched.
He vaguely heard someone counting, but his mind wasn't in the weight room anymore.
His father was next to him laughing and joking as they exercised.Crunches, pushups, burpees, squats, it didn't matter, they did it all.And then Bailey would still have gymnastics practice.It wasn't so much when he was six—only five to six hours a week—but it had gradually increased over the years to twenty-plus hours.
He needed it now.The pain of pushing his body to the near breaking point, the need to prove his worth, to push himself to exhaustion.
He felt a twinge on his thigh.The strain of holding this position for so long was irritating the small cut he had there.Bailey used the pain as a focus, to continue to drift away.He only hoped the thin cut didn't break open and start bleeding. At least his pants were black.
And that was all Bailey remembered until he heard his coach yelling at him."McIntyre!Get up, son.This non-sense is over!"
What?It was over?
"And where the hell is Rodney?" Coach snapped.
Bailey dropped to his hands and knees before sitting back on his heels as he heard Justin explain where Rodney had gone.God, his arms felt like Jello.How many pushups had they done? He glanced over at the Declan guy who had already stopped and was now staring at him.He hoped Declan was alright.
Justin and Chris were attempting to smooth over things with the coaches.
Bailey couldn't decide what Declan was thinking.Perhaps nothing, being just as exhausted as Bailey was.Bailey just looked up at Coach Richards, absently rubbing his hand over the small wound hidden under the black fabric on his thigh.Pushing on it gave him a jolt, a small rush he needed to face the scrutiny of the coaches and teams.
The football coach, Mr. Reed, was ushering his team out by the time Bailey managed to focus.Bailey tried to ignore the glares him and his team were receiving.He turned to see Declan still sitting next to him, obviously as tired as Bailey was.He wanted to commiserate with the guy—knowing they'd both have sore arms tomorrow. He almost spoke up, wanting to offer some sort of support. But Declan just shook his arms out, ignoring him.
Rodney appeared as the last of the football team hurried out behind their coach."What's going on?"
Bailey could hear the edge of nervousness in the poor guy's voice.He couldn't blame him.He'd thought he'd left just six guys waiting patiently for him to return from a quick emergency call.To come back to see at least thirty guys leaving, along with the coaches, had to be pretty intense.
"Apparently, there was debate over who's turn it was to use the room," Coach Richards said darkly.
"Damn, sorry about that.I should have kicked them out instead of letting them use the corner to stretch.I didn't think it would take that long—" Rodney stammered to explain.
"Yeah, you should have," Richards agreed.
Rodney nodded, muttering an apology again, as he glanced at the last of the retreating team.
"Well, Justin, Cam, Luke, Mateo, Owen," Coach Richards begin as Rodney slinked off to the side, and Bailey watched Declan finally crawl up from the floor to follow his teammates."You all want to tell me why Bailey here is the one doing a hundred plus push-ups while you all are standing around?"
"Coach, they started it," Justin explained."They barreled in here demanding we leave, thinking they owned everything.We just stood up for ourselves."
Coach Richards narrowed his eyes, taking in all of the guys.He even caught the gaze of the football guy, Declan, as he trudged toward the door.
Bailey was surprised when Declan nodded, confirming that it was his own team that had instigated the confrontation.Hmm, maybe this guy wasn't like his captain.Some of those football guys didn't seem too bad, he certainly hadn't gotten any bad impressions before during classes.Maybe this Declan guy was one of them.
"I see, so you let your brand new teammate defend your honor?"
Bailey gaped at his Coach.It hadn't been like that at all, not really..."I didn't mind."
"Coach, you know Bailey is the best of all of us; he can do a hundred push-ups in his sleep," Justin said.
Bailey startled at Declan's narrowed eyes and look of astonishment.He tilted his head.Obviously, the entire football team had thought he was the weakest one, including Declan.
"Well, looks like you boys have some catching up to do."Coach Richards waved his hand to get them moving."McIntyre, you can take a break, go on to the Auxiliary gym.Your teammates have some work to do."
Bailey hesitated, eyeing each of his fellow gymnasts.They were the only ones here at this school he would even call friends.Justin especially had worked hard to make him feel welcome.Abandoning them just didn't seem right.
"If it's all the same to you, Coach, I'd like to stay."
Justin and the others grinned at him.The coach tried to hide his smile since he was supposed to be angry, but it still snuck through.
"Fine, you can count."
Bailey dropped into a side split, and leaned forward on his elbows, his legs splayed out to each side of his body.
"Damn," Owen swore, cringing, "how the hell does he do that?"
"He practices!" Coach Richards snapped."Like you all should instead of mouthing off with the other teams."
First time adding a chapter after the upgrades! Added in manual line breaks to make it more readable (I know I read that was a problem our wonderful site admins were working on!). Hope you enjoyed it!