Brae
by Kieron Connors

 

Chapter 10 

I splashed some water on my face and then stood up to inspect my reflection in the mirror over our sink. Beads of water adorned my face like crystals. I stared into my cerulean blue eyes, my pupils forced to contract into pin-sized dots by the garishly bright vanity bulbs surrounding the mirror. I sighed. `You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do this. You can tell him you don’t feel ready and he’ll understand. But what if he doesn’t? Isn’t it rude of me not to reciprocate?’ I blew a stray wisp of my blond hair off of my bronzed forehead and then continued my silent communication with the mirror. `What is the matter with me?! I want to do this. I totally want to do this. How hard can it be? Tate knows that I’m inexperienced. He will talk me through it.’

Our afternoon at the beach had been an excellent diversion and on arriving home Tate and I immediately got up to other diversionary activities. We had repeated that mornings’ exercises with gusto and Tate had given me a blowjob so intense that I thought I might die from sheer pleasure. But now what? I knew it was my turn to return the favor, so to speak, and I desperately wanted to. But at the same time I was paralyzed by fear over my inexperience. What if I just couldn’t perform?

He wasn’t pressuring me at all. Tate had seemed perfectly happy to suck me off and then frot his way to orgasm against my deflating cock. And I knew, when it came down to it, that I could trust him unconditionally. Still, the grip of anxiety tugged at my stomach and made me feel like I might shit out all my intestines.

`Brae, suck it up, pony up, and just do it,’ I silently barked at myself, furrowing my brow.

“Caught ya!”

Tate’s voice shocked me out of my trance and I started with surprise. He leaned casually against the bathroom’s doorframe, wearing only a skimpy pair of briefs hung so low on his non-existent hips that his dark pubes curled enticingly over the top. The full heavy pouch of his briefs made my mouth water. Tate sidled up behind me and pressed his full basket against my ass, wrapped his arms around my chest and rested his chin on my shoulder, meeting my eyes in the mirror.

“You look in the mirror a lot. My own little Narcissus,” he teased.

“Yeah, it helps me think,” I admitted. “I’m an only child. I talk to myself. You make do with what you got.”

Tate smiled and kissed my shoulder. His hands began gently kneading my pecs, massaging out my tension.

“So what’s the conversation about? Me?” he asked, meeting my eyes again in our reflections.

“Agh! This is making me dizzy,” I said, unable to figure out exactly where to look to meet his gaze. I turned in his arms to face him, our groins pressed together as I leaned against the counter. “Better,” I said, reaching my arms up and wrapping them around Tate’s neck, softly kissing him on the lips. The feeling of his warm body against mine was simultaneously comforting and erotic. His body was almost completely hairless, like mine, and his skin was incredibly soft. I sighed with pleasure.

“Are you overwhelmed?” he asked, looking at me intently.

“Maybe a little bit, with the physical stuff,” I admitted reluctantly. “I really like it, but–“

“–But it’s your first time and that can be intimidating,” he finished. “You know,” he said softly, “we’ve only been together two days and I get that all this is new for you. I just want you to know that there is no pressure. I have no expectations or anything like that. Anything I do, I do because I want to, not because I want you to reciprocate. I want you to feel completely comfortable when we make love, so everything is at your pace. I can wait. We have forever.”

I was overcome by feelings of relief and love and I rested my head against Tate’s strong chest and hugged him tightly. “Thank you,” I whispered. “That was exactly what I needed to hear.”

He trailed his fingertips lightly up and down my back, giving me goosebumps. He kissed the top of my head and then ruffled my hair. “Come on, let’s go to bed,” he said, flipping off the bathroom light and leading me by the hand back into our room.

Tate checked the alarm clocks while I climbed into bed. I stretched out, enjoying the tantalizing sight of my boyfriend’s brief-clad ass. His powerful torso tapered to a tiny waist that was accented by his incredibly defined core muscle and his sensational bubble butt. Tate’s legs were drool-worthy also, with thighs the size of tree trunks and calves like boulders. It was hard to believe that under this imposing exterior was a guy with a goofily shy and endlessly caring personality. Tate walked over to my bed, his quadriceps flexing impressively with each step, and bent over to plant a lingering kiss on my mouth. His tongue sought and was quickly granted entry, and our minty fresh tongues wrestled wantonly.

“Goodnight,” he whispered, pulling away slowly. We had decided earlier that if we didn’t want out performance at practice to suffer (which we didn’t) we had better maintain our current sleeping arrangement of separate beds on the nights before practice, at least for the moment. We both agreed that we needed to be beyond reproach, especially should word of our relationship get back to the team. We didn’t want out relationship resented or blamed for poor performances in the pool. Tate had suggested that Friday nights be an exception since we only had one practice on Saturdays, and so that we could spend at least spend two nights a week together.

I reached out and grabbed one of his strong hands in mine and held him by my bedside. “Can’t you come cuddle for just a few minutes?” I asked innocently, pulling my comforter back invitingly.

“Uh-uh, you know that’s against the rules,” Tate playfully scolded, wagging a finger at me.

“No funny business, I *promise*.”

“*That’s* supposed to convince me? You’re not very good at this whole `leading astray’ thing,” he chuckled.

“Please?”

“*Fiiiiine*,” he acquiesced with mock annoyance.

Tate slid into bed next to me and I shuffled to make room for him. I spooned up against his broad back, enjoying its warmth against my chest. I nestled my face in his black curls and wrapped my arm around him. He clutched it to his chest and I could feel his heartbeat pattering against my own faint pulse points. I kissed his muscular shoulder and sighed with content.

“I want to take you away next weekend,” Tate whispered.

“Do you want to go to the cottage?” I asked dreamily, consciousness ebbing away like the tide.

“We could, or I could book us a hotel or something,” he replied.

“Mmm-hmm,” I mumbled, soothed into slumber by the soft, velvety quality of his voice.

***

Tate was still wrapped in my arms when the first of our alarms went off the next morning. I jerked with shock at the alarm’s piercing shriek, knocking my head on the back of Tate’s.

“Owww,” he chuckled, sitting up and rubbing the back of his head, tenderly.

“Sorry,” I said, sitting up and stretching out leisurely. My right side felt stiff and tight from our cramped sleeping arrangement.

“So much for the rules,” Tate said with amusement, getting up out of bed and walking over to his dresser.

“I’m stiff,” I groaned, kinking my neck to one side and cringing as it unleashed a series of cracks down my spine.

“Stiff, huh?” Skip replied, pulling down his briefs and exposing sensational snow-white ass. “Me too,” he said turning to face me, clutching his morning erection suggestively. His face was lit up with a cheeky grin and I couldn’t help but snicker.

“You are a piece of work,” I said, rolling my eyes, as I slid out of bed and went to get ready for practice.

***

The day was a busy one but it passed rather uneventfully. Morning practice went well, then Tate and I grabbed breakfast before heading off to our classes for the day. I had a short lifeguarding shift between my last class and our afternoon practice. Colin was my lifting partner, as usual, and we worked through our reps quickly and efficiently. I liked that Colin preferred to get down to business and didn’t feel the need to fill the workout with chatter and gossip, like some of our teammates did. I looked over at Tate, who was getting his ear positively talked off by Kenner, with amusement. Tate was good-natured about it. I knew he had the capacity to be just as chatty as Kenner, he just tended to withdraw in the team environment. One could hardly blame him after the Drake incident. Tate’s and Kenner’s pairing was also aesthetically humorous, since they represented just about the most polar opposite body types our team offered.

Lip mouthed off for most of practice about some freshman he had managed to bed over the weekend and even Eric’s good-natured patience seemed to be wearing thin by the end of practice. Timmy seemed completely unable to muzzle Lip’s verbal diarrhea. Try as he might, his threats seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

“Good god,” I mumbled to Eric as we climbed out of the water after practice.

Eric laughed and gave a good-natured shrugged. “Lip doesn’t get laid too often, so when he does expect to hear about it. Luckily, it seems like most of his conquests wise up after just one romp in the sack with our friend, Lip.”

“Thank God for that,” I laughed, raising my eyes to the heavens.

“So how was your weekend?” Eric asked.

“It was nice. Pretty uneventful,” I fibbed. “But it was relaxing. This schedule is wearing on me a little more than I’d expected it would. How was yours?”

He shrugged. “Olivia’s cousin was in town, touring Carrington, so we didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would have liked. Plus Carl and Colin are never in our house anymore, so there isn’t anyone for me to really kick back with ya’ know?”

“Poor Eric. Life’s tough,” I whined, playfully. He gave me a friendly punch on the shoulder.

“Shut up!” he laughed. “So, how are things going with you? Everything okay?” he asked, changing subjects a little awkwardly.

“Uhh, yeah,” I mumbled, suddenly feeling like I might die of embarrassment. So much for being one of the guys.

“Good, cause if anyone’s giving you a hard time, or sumthin’, I wanna know about it.”

“Uhh, thanks. Everything is good though, I promise,” I said, leading the way into the showers. Eric’s concern was touching but at the same time it re-emphasized the fact that he, and others, thought of me differently. Eric caught up with some of his senior buddies in the showers and I ran back to my locker to grab my shampoo. Skip was at his locker, two down from mine, as I rounded the corner into the aisle. I froze for a moment, overcome by awkwardness.

He wasn’t looking too good. His face was looking a little bloated and his healthy tan was a thing of the past. Deep bags hung under his eyes and gave them a sunken look. He looked exhausted.

“Umm, hi,” I said cautiously, more or less expecting to be ignored.

“Hey,” Skip replied softly, his twang emphasizing that last consonant. “How’ya been?” he asked.

“Good,” I replied, yanking open my locker. I felt like a mess of raw, nervous energy.

“Tate treatin’ ya good?”

“Yeah, he’s a really nice guy. Uhh, how’s Drake?” I asked reluctantly.

“Good. He is a lot of fun. Tons of fun.”

“Oh, uhh, that’s good,” I said, trying to inject some enthusiasm into my voice. “How are your classes going so far? I didn’t see you in Econ or Accounting last week.”

“Oh yeah, I, uhh, I actually switched sections in Accounting and I slept through Econ, accidentally.”

“Skip!” I chastised.

At that moment Drake rounded the far corner of the locker aisle.

“Davvy!” his voice boomed. “Tryin’ to recruit for your side of the swingset?” he sneered. Skip grimaced and looked at me with apologetic eyes.

“What?! I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean,” I snapped, grabbing my shampoo and slamming my locker shut for emphasis. “Skip, get some sleep. Drake, grow up,” I said, pivoting on my heels and stalking back to the showers.

“Hey!” Tate greeted me with a wide smile as I walked up and joined him under one of the communal shower heads.

“Hi,” I said, shoving my head under the steaming stream of water and quickly grabbing the shampoo and lathering up.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Yup.”

“Hey Braeden,” a familiar voice came from behind me. I could have screamed. My hands curled into fists and I gritted my teeth.

“Hi Beau,” I replied, not even turning to face him.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Just showering,” I replied.

“Ohh, uhh, yeah,” he said, forcing a laugh. I rolled my eyes.

I turned to face him.

“Is there something that you want?” I asked as I rubbed down my limbs with the suds from my shampoo.

“Well, yes…” he said, casting a glance in Tate’s direction.

“What?” I asked impatiently. Tate shot me an odd look. “Sorry, I’m kinda in a foul mood,” I said half-heartedly.

“It’s fine, I’m used to it,” he said. I winced. He was probably right. I had been unusually short and even hostile with him and he really hadn’t been anything but friendly. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he wanted something from me.

“Yeah, sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay. Anyways, cards on the table– I’ve been attempting, unsuccessfully, to recruit you for the Alpha Delta brotherhood for the last month,” he said. “That’s off the record,” he said, looking warily at Tate.

“Ohh,” I said. So the girls had been right after all.

“Anyways we’re having a barbeque at the house on Wednesday evening for possible recruits and I’m supposed to invite you.”

“Oh, uhh, you guys know I’m gay, right?” I said.

“Yeah. That actually makes you an even more attractive candidate. We have diversity quotas we’re supposed to fill. You still fit the profile better than anybody else in your class and the house really wants you. Why else do you think they assigned me to recruit you?”

“I dunno. I don’t really think I want to go Greek,” I said, not really sure what I thought about the subject. It was certainly flattering to be wanted, especially by what was considered the most elite house on campus. But at the same time I didn’t really want to buy into that mentality and was more comfortable with the idea of laying low during my time at Carrington. I figured I’d talk it over with Tate and the girls, but I was pretty sure that Alpha Delta wasn’t in my future plans.

“Okay, well, that’s your choice. But if you want to show up at the barbeque and, maybe make it look like I at least got you to think twice about it, I’d consider it a huge favor,” Beau said with a grin. “And I promise I won’t bother you anymore.”

“Oh, you’re not bothering me,” I replied, trying to backtrack.

“Right,” he said sarcastically.

“I, uhh, I’ll think about it. No promises,” I replied.

“Good enough. See you guys later,” he said with a quick wave.

“Uhh, Beau?” I called after him. He turned to look back at me.

“Sorry if I’ve been a bit of an asshole.”

He shrugged. “No big.”

“Well lookie here,” Tate whispered when Beau had left. “My boyfriend is quite the big shot, huh?”

“Shut up!” I groaned, trying to suppress a smirk.

“I mean, where’s my invite?”

“Lost in the mail, I’m sure.”

“I mean, don’t I fit the profile?” he pouted playfully.

“You do in my book, stud,” I whispered, looking around to make sure that no one was in earshot.

We finished our showers and then headed back to our lockers to change. I took my time getting dressed so I could take furtive glances at my boyfriend’s beefy body as he dressed. Watching his muscles and tendons flex and contract under his marble skin with each little movement was like poetry in motion. It was virtually impossible for me to look away.

“Braeden!” a voice said to my right, snapping me out of my voyeuristic trance. I jumped with fright and had to grab the door of my locker to catch myself. A strong arm reached out to steady me and I turned to see Cash looking at me with concern.

“I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you like that!” he said.

“Oh,” I replied, embarrassed and little frazzled. “It’s okay. I was spacing out, so it’s not really your fault.”

Cash looked over in Tate’s direction. “Yeah,” he replied wistfully. “Who could blame you?”

“Uhh, yeah,” I said, clearing my throat, less than thrilled to see somebody else coveting my boyfriend. “So, what’s up?” I asked, pulling my polo out of my locker and pulling it over my head.

Cash’s attention snapped back to me. “Oh, I was wondering, uhh, if you might wanna, umm, grab dinner together,” he said nervously, looking down at his toes and letting his sun-kissed brown hair fall over his face.

`Oh, fuck,’ I thought to myself. `He’s asking me out. Is he asking me out? I think he is. Maybe I’m reading too far into this. No, he is definitely asking me out. What should I say? I can’t say yes. I feel bad saying no. I should probably say yes, he might want someone to talk to. But I don’t want to lead him on, so should I just tell him I’m seeing someone? I could do that. He won’t necessarily know its Tate.’

“You’re, uhh, speechless. That’s not good. Never mind, forget I asked.”

“N-no!” I stammered. “I’d like to grab dinner! I really would. It’s just… I feel like you should know that I, uhh, I have a boyfriend now.” I said, quickly glimpsing in Tate’s direction reflexively.

“Ohh,” he muttered, “No, umm, just a friendly dinner. Totally platonic,” he said, with a forced looking smile.

“Hey! Ready to go?” Tate asked, sauntering up behind me and putting a possessive hand on my shoulder. If Cash hadn’t already put two and two together, he now seemed to.

“Not yet,” I replied, pulling my jeans out of my locker. “Tate do you know Cash? Cash this is Tate, my roommate.”

They shook and muttered their greetings and Tate looked him over a little suspiciously.

“Tate, Cash and I are actually going to grab dinner together, so you don’t have to wait for me.”

Oh, really?” Tate said, annoyance inflected in his voice.

“Do you want to come?” Cash asked charitably, brushing his surfer hair behind an ear.

Tate looked surprised. “Yeah! Sure.”

“No, he doesn’t have to come. Tate, you don’t have to come,” I said, struggling into my pant legs. Tate offered me his arm for balance.

“No, really it’s all right,” Cash insisted.

“Well, alright then,” I said, closing my locker. “Shall we?”

***

Cash brought us to his favorite Mexican restaurant in town, which immediately lost him points with Tate, who apparently didn’t like Mexican food (or was just making a point of being difficult). Actually, I suppose Cash first lost points with Tate for hitting on me and the restaurant was just icing on the cake. Regardless, the mood at the table was a little chilly as we awkwardly fiddled with our cutlery and Cash chewed on the straw to his water in a rather unsavory manner. I figured it was on me to bridge the conversation gap, so I put out some feelers hoping that one of them would take the bait.

“So, Timmy was pretty hard on us at practice today,” I said. I wanted to roll my eyes, it wasn’t even true. I looked expectantly to see if either of them looked ready to jump on the conversational band wagon. Cash grumbled something and Tate just looked off into the distance blankly. Guess not.

“I can’t believe it’s already nearly October. Our first meet is only a month away,” I offered. Still no takers. So, I went for the trump card. “So I had an incident with Drake today…”

“What?!” They both reacted.

Got `em.

“Are you okay?” Cash asked.

“What’d he do? I’ll level him. It’s one thing for him to rag on me, but you’re a whole different story,” Tate growled, his fists clenched and the veins in his arm and neck bulging. I put a hand on his shoulder to calm him down.

“It’s okay. It wasn’t a big deal. I was just saying hello to Skip, who looks like hell by the way, and Drake had some comments to make. It really wasn’t a big deal. I walked away.”

“Still, you shouldn’t have to put up with that,” Tate fumed.

“None of us should,” Cash replied.

I shrugged. “I think it’s just the nature of the game sometimes. Uhh, is everything okay with you Cash?” I asked, sensing that there was probably a reason why he’d come to me.

Cash hung his head a bit, letting his hair fall into his face a bit. “Yeah, I’m just sort of tired of it all,” he said dejectedly.

“Tired of what?” I asked. “Are your friends giving you a hard time?”

“No. They’re fine. It’s just, I guess, I feel like my friends have always been okay about the gay thing as long as I was content to make it a non-issue. But it isn’t a non-issue. I shouldn’t have to do that, and I don’t want to anymore.”

I reached my hand across the table and gave his forearm a reassuring squeeze.

“I just wanna be myself. And I don’t want to be alone anymore just because I’m nervous what my friends are going to think if I get a boyfriend. Not that I’d even know where to go about finding one. You’re the only other gay person, uhh, people, that I really know at Carrington.”

“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t others. There definitely are,” Tate said, stepping up and being supportive. I flashed him a quick smile.

“Yeah, I know,” Cash replied. “But just because they’re gay doesn’t mean I’m going to have anything in common with them. I dunno, having another gay guy on the team seemed too good to be true.”

“Yeah…” I replied awkwardly.

“Yeah, well that ship has kinda sailed,” Tate said, throwing arm around me and gently massaging my neck. I gave him a sharp look. “But we’re always looking for more friends,” he continued,” and you seem like a nice, genuine guy.”

“Thanks,” Cash smiled. “So does anybody else on the team know about you two? Being a couple, I mean.”

“Yeah, Colin and Carl know,” I replied.

“But, otherwise we don’t really want people to know about it,” Tate interjected. “We don’t want it to be used against us.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Cash responded. “I don’t know that many guys on the team cause I missed so much of last year with my elbow problems, but I feel like a lot of the guys probably don’t want to know anything about that. It’s one thing, I think, for them to know theoretically that you’re gay. It’s a whole other deal when you sorta force them to see you as sexualized.”

“Exactly,” Tate echoed.

“Our friends that know have been really cool about it though. And I know Kenner and Cam will be too when we tell them. I feel like we’ve found a really solid group of friends,” I said to Tate.

“Yeah, you’re right. Although that was mostly you,” he smiled. “You have a way with people. They all come to you.”

“Oh, whatever,” I laughed, kyboshing him. “Have you had much luck getting to know some of the other guys on the team?” I asked. “Cash redshirted last year because he had a shoulder problem–“

“–Elbow,” Cash cut in.

“Oh, sorry, elbow problem,” I explained to Tate.

Cash shrugged. “Not really. The guys are nice enough, but it feels as though they already have their established groups.”

“Yeah, that can be kind of intimidating,” I said.

“I don’t know if intimidating is the right word. I just feel like they already have their own thing going on and it isn’t exactly my thing. If I saw someone I wanted to be friends with, I’d actually probably be pretty aggressive about it,” he chuckled. “I came after you, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m sorry I didn’t get back in touch with you after you introduced yourself to me. Honestly it just slipped my mind.”

“Well, you’ve clearly had a lot going on,” Cash said with a smile.

“Yeah, that’s not an excuse though. I’m not generally a flakey person.”

Cash laughed. “Well, I am, sometimes, so I know how that can go. Can’t help it I was raised that way.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“P.V., California,” he replied. “Palos Verdes,” he clarified. “It’s outside of LA.”

“And you came to this arctic climate?” Tate laughed.

“I started a Facebook group campaigning for a California relocation of Carrington,” he jibed.

“Sign me up,” I laughed. “I can’t believe the weather has held up this long. I keep expecting to wake up and find that it’s suddenly like 40 degrees.”

“Yeah the heat in the dorms is nothing to write home about,” Cash replied. “You’re lucky you have this guy to keep you warm,” he said, nodding at Tate. Tate seemed appeased. Now that Cash was acknowledging our relationship, Tate didn’t seem to perceive him as a threat and he actually began warming up to him. Their senses of humor were well actually suited for each other.

The rest of the evening passed pleasantly. Cash had an easy and carefree spirit once you got to know him, a lot like Emmie. But Cash was also an entertainer at heart. He did impressions, burst into song spontaneously and was just generally goofy. He was the eldest of three kids, all boys, and he said they fought like cats and dogs growing up. One of his brothers was deaf, so he was fluent in American Sign Language and he volunteered at a local school for deaf children. He really liked working with kids cause they got his silly sense of humor and was thinking about being a science teacher someday.

Cash regaled us with stories about lifeguarding on the Pacific beachfront, his surfing exploits with his buddies, and the jazz cover band he’d formed in high school with two of his childhood friends. Cash’s musical accomplishments (and the pitcher of margaritas we ordered) inspired Tate to talk about his own musical history. As it turned out, Tate was a classically-trained tenor and had been taking voice lessons since he was a young child. I wasn’t even aware that he was enrolled in a voice seminar at Carrington. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been privy to something that seemed like such an important part of Tate’s life. It was still hard to believe that we’d really only known each other for a couple of weeks.

After dinner the three of us were sufficiently buzzed to throw caution to the wind and take up Lottie’s invitation to join them at the local bar everyone frequented on Monday nights. Cash was a huge hit the girls, especially Emmie, who was thrilled to have an addition to the `Team West Coast’ and kept trying to drunkenly make up Team West Coast (an activity that allowed Cash to unleash his true creativity). Colin and Carl embraced his addition to our group as well, although I think they were pretty indiscriminately happy to have any form of testosterone added to our group. The group of us stayed out way too late and it was nearly 3am when Tate and I collapsed into (the same) bed.

***

“There was a lot of rule-breaking going on last night,” Tate growled, holding his head in agony as our alarm went off the following morning.

“I’m too tired to move,” I groaned, peeking one eye open and feeling it tear up from the burning sting of sleep deprivation.

“I feel like I ate sawdust and then banged my head against the wall repeatedly,” Tate said.

I forced myself to sit up, leaving the warmth of our covers and I wrapped my arms around him from behind and lightly kissed his shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I’ll get you some aspirin,” I said, nuzzling into his neck and rubbing his strong chest for a second before sliding out of bed. “Fuck! It is fucking freezing!” I yelped.

“Too loud,” Tate replied.

“Sorry,” I whispered.

I grabbed my phone off of my desk on the way into the bathroom, staggering a little as I felt a bit cloudy-headed. `Fuck, I didn’t charge it!’ I groaned to myself, as I flipped it open. I opened the weather app as I retrieved the aspirin for Tate.

“It’s 47 degrees,” I said as I handed Tate a dosage and a half of tablets.

I got him a bottle of water but he still seemed to be struggling. “I’m going to go down to the dining hall to get some toast,” I said, pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. “Try and get dressed while I’m gone!”

Tate was looking a little better when I returned with the toast, and the carbs ended up helping considerably. I shivered the whole way over to the Gnat, cursing the New England climate under my every steaming breath.

We were not the only ones, by a long shot, that were looking rough at practice that morning. Most of the upperclassmen, as well as Drake’s bunch, were looking pretty ragged, so we blended in with the sea of slightly greenish looking faces. There was a lot more sleeping than stretching happening on the mats as we waited for Timmy and Jimmy to start practice. Cash came over and grabbed a spot next to us.

“I feel so unwell,” he half-moaned, half-chuckled.

I ended up having a decent enough practice. Aside from being horribly tired, I didn’t have any physical complaints. Lip was too hungover to subject us to his usual tirade of inane commentary, which was an incredible blessing.

Tate didn’t end up fairing as well and I found myself massaging his back as he vomited in one of the bathroom stalls after practice. Despite being covered in a sheen of sweat, he was shivering violently and I did my best to rub some warmth back into his limbs.

“I can’t believe this just happened again,” Tate said as we grabbed spots next to each other in the sauna. Most of the color had returned to his face after the long, hot showers we had just taken and he seemed to be doing a lot better now that the former contents of his digestive track were safely housed in the Carrington plumbing system. “I can’t believe I did this to myself again! You’d think I would have learned my lesson, what?…. four?… five days ago?”

“No, like three,” I corrected.

Tate threw up his hands in frustration and then laid down on the bench, shutting his eyes.

“It’s going to be a bitch and a half going from here to outside,” I mumbled. “I wish we could hold macroeconomics in the sauna.”

“Do not make me laugh,” Tate warned. “I do not think my head can take it.”

***

We sat in the sauna for as long as we could before we had to go back to our rooms to change for class. The temperature eventually warmed up into the mid-60s but there was still a biting chill in the air that I found a little menacing. It was incredible that overnight it was fall; the air even smelled of it. Just a couple of days ago we’d been enjoying a day at the beach and now I wanted nothing more than a hot mug of tea and the warmth of my comforter.

I saw Skip in economics. `Well at least he made it to class,’ I thought to myself, surprised at how relieved I felt. He nodded at me when he entered but didn’t sit near me. Instead he elected for a seat in the back of the classroom where he could probably nap undisturbed and undetected. I felt a little tug at my heart strings and couldn’t deny that I still felt connected to Skip, even if my feelings for him now were totally different than the romantic ones I’d had for him previously. Under all of that southern charm and bravado he was a pretty lonely person who just wanted to be loved and cared about, and I was pretty sure that he wasn’t getting much of that from Drake.

I tried to find him after class to say hello but somehow he must have slipped out before I could notice. I got through my other class, though I was barely able to sustain consciousness, and then headed back to my room and climbed into bed for a long nap before practice. Tate came in a while later and immediately hightailed it to his bed.

“Feeling better?” I asked sleepily, momentarily roused by his entrance.

“Sorta,” he mumbled, climbing under his covers. “My bed is freezing! Can I come in yours?” he asked.

“Nope!” I sighed, pulling my comforter tighter around myself and drifting back off to sleep.

***

That evening we decided to skip our usual Tuesday night burgers with the gang in favor of an early night. We spent a couple of hours after practice in the library doing our homework before heading back to the dorm for some pizza and a movie. The two of us cuddled in my bed and watched *The Lion King*, since we were both in the mood for something short and non-intellectual.

“I still think *Robin Hood* is the best Disney animated movie,” Tate said as we got ready for bed.

“*Beauty and the Beast*. End of discussion,” I retorted. “Although *Robin Hood* is top five.”

Tate laughed. “You’re nuts,” he said, quickly pecking me on the mouth with his tooth-pasty lips as we switched positions so that he could spit. “Cute. But nuts,” he smiled.

Tate was exhausted and still wasn’t feeling great so we went straight to our respective beds and called it a night. I realized that this was the second night in a row that we hadn’t fooled around at all, since we’d been too drunk the night before, and I vowed that the following day I’d change that.

***

The following evening we made a point of staying in so that we could enjoy a night alone together. We ordered a pizza (yes, again) from what Tate was beginning to refer to as “our place” since we first consummated our relationship over a box of their pizza.

“Our parents are going to think we’re nuts when they get our credit card bills and see all of the pizza charges,” I said after Tate placed the order.

“It’s part of the college lifestyle,” Tate shrugged as he struggled to uncork a bottle of wine. “This wine opener is such a piece of shit,” he grumbled, his face getting a little red with frustration.

“Lemme help,” I said, pressing myself up behind him, resting my chin on his shoulder and wrapping my arms around him. I leaned in and kissed his neck softly and then flicked his earlobe with the tip of my tongue.

Tate moaned with pleasure, letting his head fall back so that it rested on my shoulder. “We shouldn’t,” he whispered. “The pizza will be here in under a half hour.”

“So?” I asked, blowing softly against his ear and slowly beginning to kiss up his jaw line.

“So, what I have planned for you tonight is going to take a hell of a lot longer than 25 minutes,” he chuckled. “Ahh, got it!” he exclaimed as the cork finally popped out of the bottle.

I put on a pouty face as Tate poured us both glasses of wine, much to his bemusement.

“Salut,” he said handing me my glass.

“Cheers to us,” I said, clinking it against his. We both took appraising sips. “Not bad for $7 wine,” I smirked.

“You’re such a snob,” he laughed.

“So I guess you decided against Beau’s frat meeting,” Tate said.

“Oh!” I winced. “I totally forgot about that!”

“Do you want to go?” Tate asked. “We can pick this up later if you think you want to go.”

“No, no, no, I don’t at all. I feel like I should have said something to Beau though,” I said. “I still feel bad for being such a jerk to him. I totally pegged him wrong.”

“You can always say something to him tomorrow.”

“I feel like that’s such a copout though, cause it’s after the fact.”

“So, just go drop by,” he said.

“No, I just want to stay here with you. Let’s just forget it, I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” I said, suddenly feeling on edge. Tate seemed to sense my tension and he leaned his head against my shoulder reassuringly.

“Soooo… I booked us a hotel room Saturday night in New Hampshire.”

“Oh really? Where?”

“In some small ski town. It’s a little early for skiing, but the town looks quaint. I don’t think we’ll be leaving the room much anyways,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows at me playfully.

“Yeah, we’re going to have all that Brit Lit reading to do,” I teased.

“Exactly. Lots and lots of studying.”

“Next weekend I’m going to the cottage with my parents,” I said.

“Are you going to tell them?”

“Yeah, I don’t think I have any choice. My sexuality is pretty much common knowledge at Carrington now. I’m sure it will find its way back to them sooner or later if I don’t just tell them myself.”

“Yeah,” Tate replied. “Telling them is the hardest part. After that, you’re home free. A home free homosexual!” he waxed, giving me a reassuring smile. “I’m sure it will go well. Your parents sound like they’re good people.”

“I know… they really are. I’m not actually worried at all. Yet.”

“So are you going to tell them about us?”

“I dunno, I hadn’t really gotten to that hurdle yet,” I replied, taking another sip of the wine. “It might be easier to drop one bomb at a time. As wonderful and adorable a bomb you are, I think it might be a little much. They might need an adjustment period before they are ready to think about me dating.”

“Parents do love me,” Tate said with a laugh.

“I wouldn’t get too cocky. You might find yourself cast as the foreign corruptor in this melodrama.”

Tate waved off my comment light-heartedly. “Elise will actually be in New York that weekend so I’m going down to see her and then she’ll visit end of the following week after she’s finished with her fashion week commitments.”

“Oh that will be a blast. Do you guys have anything planned for that weekend yet?”

“I would like to catch a Yankee game while I’m in town, but knowing Elise our agenda will be shopping and alcohol heavy. Oh! And we’re supposed to see a production at the Metropolitan Opera that my dad did the costumes for.”

“Oh, cool, which opera is it?”

“I forget. It’s a modern opera. It only premiered in Paris this summer.”

“Hmm,” I muttered, frowning a little and sticking out the tip of my tongue with distaste. If there was one thing I detested it was modern opera. I had been subjected to enough of them over the years to know it was generally wise to avoid them. They were generally pretentiously avant garde and featured overly sensational subject matter (yes, even for opera) and cacophonously dissonant music.

Tate laughed. “I know what you mean. I don’t think this one was particularly well reviewed either. Elise will have sniffed out the bar by first intermission.”

“Sounds like my kind of girl,” I replied. “So how come I got stuck with her kid brother?” Tate nudged me in mock offense and we both laughed. “This does remind me though of the subject of your musical talents!” I said. Tate groaned. “Why didn’t you tell me you were a singer?”

Tate shrugged. “I dunno, I’m not. I’m a swimmer. That’s what I’ve always been good at. I just sing because I love it. My mom studied music in college so she always encouraged me and Elise to do something musical. Elise ended up having no sense of pitch so she quit and did ballet instead, which my mom said was an acceptable substitute. And I was good enough at singing so I did that.”

“You know you’re going to have to sing for me. I won’t be putting out again until you do.”

“Noooo,” he half-groaned, half-laughed. “You can’t be serious.”

“Of course I’m serious!”

“I’m too embarrassed!”

I cocked an eyebrow at him. “So you’re embarrassed for me to hear you sing, but me seeing you naked it no problem?!”

“You seeing me naked is absolutely no problem! In fact it could be arranged right now,” he teased, unfastening the top button of his jeans.

“Yeah, I’m not going to let you gimmick your way out of this one,” I replied matter-of-factly.

“Why?” he moaned.

“Because clearly music is something that is important to you and I would like to share that with you. I’d like to share everything with you. Isn’t that the definition of intimacy?”

Tate smiled thoughtfully for a second. “You, Braeden Christopher Davenport, have quite the way with words.”

“Does this mean I win?” I asked.

Tate laughed and waved me off. He got up and retrieved a relatively small keyboard from under his bed.

“I didn’t know you had that,” I said.

“Yes, that was the point of burying it under the bed,” he replied with a wink. He cleared his laptop and a few other items off of his desk and then placed the keyboard on it. “Now, I am not a pianist,” he said looking at me, his face suddenly looking nervous and vulnerable. “I know enough to sorta accompany myself, but I’m not great,” he said.

I nodded my understanding and walked over to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. I gave him a little squeeze and he took a deep breath and began to play.

I immediately recognized the tune from the lead-in and I had to laugh. “You’re bad,” I laughed.

“You asked for it,” Tate replied, his fingers dancing dexterously across the keyboard. “Behold the way our fine feathered friend, his virtue doth parade…” Tate’s voice rang out as he launched into his rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

His voice was smooth with a seductively rich timbre and a staggering emotional complexity. Listening to him sing was like looking into his soul. Of course Tate had lots of fun at my expense with the lyrics of the song, even letting his accompaniment lapse so he could cover his eyes with mock horror while he sang about my “laughable” and “unphotographical” looks. His range soared effortlessly as he drew the song to a close, hitting the top notes with incredible clarity of tone.

When he’d finished, he leaned his head back against my stomach and looked up at me with a smile.

“Thank you,” I said with a self-conscious laugh, wiping away the couple of tears that had jumped to my eyes and bending over to give him a kiss upside down. “I had no idea you were so talented,” I said.

Tate shrugged and turned off the keyboard. He stowed it back under his bed and then reclaimed his seat on my bed. I brought him his glass of wine and cuddled up next to him.

“That was really incredible. Tate, you are so talented. You should be doing something with your singing.”

“I’m taking my lessons. I’m content with that for now.”

“Yeah, but seriously, you could make a career out of this. You’re more than good enough. And you have a face that will make music execs cream their pants. Trust me, I speak from experience.”

Tate laughed and took a long sip of his wine. He was definitely trying to avoid the issue. I decided to let him off the hook for the evening since I didn’t want to dampen the mood. The pizza arrived a few minutes later and the two of us dug into it voraciously.

“I don’t think this place will ever get old,” Tate said as he gobbled down his second piece of pizza with astonishing speed.

“You’re lucky my high school trained me well for this diet,” I said with a laugh. “There was this great pizza place two blocks from my school and we all used to go there every day, rain or shine, for lunch. And if it was nice out we’d eat in the park. There is this one hill that all the Vance kids hang out on during lunch. And if it rained we’d eat in the pizzeria, but it’s pretty small and really popular, so on rainy days it’s pretty much standing room only and everyone is packed in there like sardines. But it’s worth it! Best pizza I ever had.”

Tate looked at me skeptically.

“I will give you the address you can go there next weekend. Believe me, I’m a paragon of taste. This place is unreal.”

“Sure, sure,” Tate laughed. “The pizza in France is so bad pretty much anything on this side of the Atlantic tastes heavenly to me.”

“I’ll make a connoisseur out of you yet,” I replied.

We were both feeling pretty full after dinner. Certainly full enough that the thought of getting naked wasn’t going to be appealing for the next couple of hours so we decided to go for a walk around the lake that borders Carrington’s campus. Although it was still pretty early, the jogging path around the lake was pretty much deserted so we felt comfortable enough holding hands or walking with our arms around each other.

“I’m so happy,” Tate sighed as we meandered leisurely along the lake. The crickets were out in full force, providing the soundtrack to our jaunt and a full moon lit our path, its reflection bouncing across the surface of the lake.

“Me too,” I replied, leaning over and kissing his cheek. “Although…”

“Are you thinking about your parents?”

“No, I told you I’m not really worried about that. I was just thinking about Cash.”

“Cash?!” Tate exclaimed.

“Yeah. I just wish that he had someone. Someone like you,” I said, poking him in the chest. “He just seems really lonely and I wish that he had someone to rely on.”

“Well he has us to rely on,” Tate replied squeezing me tighter. “And the rest will come later. When he’s ready. Honestly, I think he needs to be a lot more comfortable with himself before he’s ready for a relationship.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t think that being lonely is going to be fixed by getting a boyfriend. I feel like that can only lead to an unhealthy relationship. I think you need to be happy with yourself and with your life before you’re ready for that.”

“Well, what about us?”

“What *about* us?”

“Were you happy with your life before we got together?”

“I don’t mean that everything has to be perfect because obviously that is never going to be the case. My living situation with Drake sucked, but generally I think I was a happy person and I was comfortable with myself. And I think the same thing goes for you. Cash isn’t comfortable with himself yet. He’s not ready.”

“Well hopefully we can help him to become more comfortable with himself,” I replied. “And in the meantime, it can’t hurt to keep an eye out for–“

“–For a boyfriend for Cash?” Tate laughed. “You are quite the little matchmaker.”

“I’m just so full of love,” I joked.

“You’re full of something!” Tate replied, sniffing the air as though he smelled something foul.

“Hey!” I laughed, playfully shoving him sideways.

Tate stumbled, tripped over his own foot and hurtled off the path and into the adjacent shrubbery.

“Oh my god! Are you okay?” I yelped, my eyes straining in the darkness at the spot where he’d disappeared. “Tate?” I called out, reaching into the bushes, leafing through them, searching for him. Tate’s strong hand suddenly reached out, grabbed my wrist and pulled me down onto the ground with him.

“You jerk!” I laughed. “Are you okay?”

“Yup, despite your better efforts. The bushes broke my fall and this grass is pretty soft,” he replied.

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly, my eyes still working to adjust to the darkness. I could make out Tate’s outline on the ground next to me. He was laying on his side looking at me.

“Oh yeah?” he asked playfully. “What are you going to do to make it up to me?” he teased, easing me onto my back and then rolling on top of me. I could feel his erection through our jeans, pressed against my thigh. The moon illuminated his head from behind, causing a silver halo to emanate from his curls. He slowly lowered his lips to mine. He kissed me ravenously, as though he couldn’t get enough. His tongue aggressively probed my mouth as he held my face. He shuffled his hips so that his groin was against mine and he began rhythmically thrusting his erection against mine. I gasped with pleasure, shocked by the intensity of my arousal. I felt as though I was on sensory overload, as though my inability to see very well in the darkness had heightened my other senses. I was acutely aware of the feeling of his skin against mine, his breath on my cheek, the taste of his tongue and his clean, masculine aroma.

He kissed me passionately, teasing my lower lip with his teeth before thrusting his tongue back into my mouth so that it could mingle with mine. One of his hands reached down and opened my fly. It worked its way into my briefs and grabbed my cock. I moaned as he began slowly working his hand up and down my shaft, heightening my arousal. I groped blindly down his torso until I located his fly and hastily opened it, my hands frantically searching out his equipment.

“Fuck it,” I mumbled, momentarily breaking off our kiss and grabbing the waistband of his jeans and pulling them down under his ass, freeing his throbbing erection. Tate followed suit, easing my jeans down. I lifted my ass off the ground to help him slide them past my hips and my erection sprung up against my abs.

Tate looked down at me appraisingly for a second. “Fuck, you’re so hot,” he groaned, before once more attacking my mouth with his. I returned his kiss with wanton abandon and grabbed his cock in my hand, loving its hard thickness and velvety soft foreskin. I humped my own erection against his, rubbing the head of my cock against his shaft and Tate moaned. His hand grabbed my dick and his together and he began milking both of our cocks at once while I switched my focus to playing with his heavy testicles, impressed with my own assertiveness.

In fact, my mind seemed unable to completely wrap itself around the moment. If you had told me only a week ago that I’d be half naked having sex with my boyfriend al fresco, I never would have believed it. Yet here I was with my bare ass pressed against the ground and Tate’s cock pressed firmly against mine. The whole situation was incredibly arousing and terrifying (even though we weren’t likely to be happened upon by anything other than maybe a raccoon).

Both of our needs became more urgent and the pace of our frotting increased. We kissed fervently, gasping for breath. I felt my orgasm building and began bucking my hips more wildly against Tate’s.

“I’m close,” I gasped breathlessly against his cheek.

“Me too,” he grunted.

Tate began thumbing the head of my dick with each stroke, sending jolts of electricity down my shaft. I clung to Tate’s back, clutching his chest against mine and moaning with ecstasy as my orgasm overtook me. Tate joined me a moment later, digging his face into my neck as his cock erupted shot after shot of hot splooge on my groin. He collapsed onto me, breathing heavily, and the two of us lay there for a few moments, savoring the fading sensations.

“Wow,” Tate said. Rolling off of me onto his back. “That was intense.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, my mind reeling. I stared up at the stars peaking through the tree branches overhead.

“Fuck the ground is cold!” Tate said, pulling his jeans back up and refastening them. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I, uhh, guess I didn’t notice,” I replied, pulling up my own jeans.

Tate sat up slowly and then got to his feet. He extended an arm in my direction. I grabbed it and pulled him back down on top of me.

“Payback’s a bitch,” I laughed, kissing him playfully.

“I will take your payback anytime you offer it,” he replied with a grin, getting back up on his feet and helping me up as well.

“Oh crap, I think you ripped the back of my shirt!” Tate said with a chuckle.

“Lemme see,” I said, grabbing him by the shoulders and turning him to inspect the back of the shirt. “Oh, yeah…” I said, feeling a hole just under the tag. The fabric around it was all stretched out. “Sorry, I guess I don’t know my own strength!” I laughed.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Tate replied giving me a quick peck on the cheek and then grabbing my hand and leading me back through the bushes.

We almost collided with a female jogger (who nearly jumped into the lake from fright) as we stumbled back onto the path. Tate waved cheekily and we headed back towards campus, my arm around his shoulder.

 

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