|The Other Team
Author: pastries and turtlenecks PM
High school was hard enough for Chris Thomas without an attractive football player trying to lure him out of the closet - for all the wrong reasons.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Elder Church & Elder Thomas - Chapters: 8 - Words: 20,049 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 08-25-12 - Published: 05-11-12 - id: 8107951
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chris flopped down on his bed and pressed his palms into his eyes.
"Don't panic," he muttered to himself. "Just analyze the situation."
He'd kissed him. He'd kissed James. He had gotten caught up in the moment and he'd kissed James Church.
"It was nothing. I just had to get him to come to his senses somehow."
Chris knew that was a lie. You don't just kiss your friend to get him to listen to you. Especially when your friend is a guy. And you don't like guys.
"I don't like boys," Chris tried to assure himself.
But every time he thought about those soft lips pressed against his own, offering the tiniest bit of reciprocation, his chest tightened and a swarm of butterflies emerged in his stomach. Every time he thought about those strong hands revealing that grotesque injury, he felt his heart sink. And every time he thought about those gorgeous green eyes outlined by those rectangular glasses the other was so shy about, his head got cloudy and he couldn't think straight.
James seemed to have that effect on Chris.
"I don't like boys," he repeated, voice wavering.
Why was it, then, that he almost constantly had this boy on his mind? Looking back, he obsessed over James almost as much as Connor obsessed over Kevin – Chris was just a bit more subtle about it. When he wasn't around James, he was thinking about being around James, or hoping someone would bring James up. And when they did, he would always end up blushing. Any other guy and he wouldn't react that way, but with James it was different.
"I just like spending time with him," Chris said, practically in a whisper.
He knew he was scraping the bottom of the barrel at that point. Why was this so hard for him to accept? Connor seemed perfectly okay with himself, why couldn't Chris just do the same?
Chris took a deep breath, only just noticing that he was trembling. "Maybe I'm not straight," he muttered, his words slightly muffled as his face lay pressed into his pillow.
Maybe? He'd never had a crush on a girl in his life. He'd felt incredibly awkward and uncomfortable during a party in freshman year when he was forced into the spare bedroom for seven minutes in heaven with a girl from his math class - hell, he wouldn't even let her kiss him. And he had definitely enjoyed that kiss just hours earlier.
"Maybe I'm definitely not straight…" he amended, still not feeling any less anxious about the situation. The first step was acknowledging it, he tried to remind himself, so he took a deep breath and mustered up all of his courage.
He squeezed his eyes shut as soon as the declaration left his lips, expecting to spontaneously combust or something similar. But he didn't. He was fine. He actually felt… Better. His trembling slowly subsided and his heart rate returned to normal.
"I'm gay," he repeated, his voice stronger and more confident. The two little words had lifted a metaphorical weight off of his shoulders and he sat up.
"I'm gay." His lips cracked into a smile as he repeated the phrase once more. This was easy. This was okay. He was going to be okay. Suddenly he couldn't remember why it had been such an issue before.
Now he just had to figure out what to do about the boy who'd made him reach that realization.
He groaned and flopped back onto the bed at the mere thought.
"And so I'm wide open, and the guy doesn't even – James, hello, you listening, dude?"
James blinked a few times and glanced at Noah. "Yeah, sorry, what were you saying?"
"That he's joining a Peruvian pan flute band and touring across the country next spring," Eric said nonchalantly.
"Oh, really? That's cool, man."
"James, seriously? That was a joke."
"Right, sorry," James said. "I've just got a lot on my mind lately."
"That reminds me," Vince said, haphazardly stuffing his football gear back into his duffel bag after a long practice. "How's lover boy doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean," Vince said, rolling his eyes. "He in love with you yet, or what?"
It took James a moment before the change of subject registered. "Oh, you mean Chris?" he asked, earning himself Eric and Noah's attention. Kevin glanced up from untying his cleats, but made a face and went back to intently undoing the tight double-knots his laces were in. "I, uh, I dunno. Maybe?"
"Maybe?" Noah asked, his tone prompting James to elaborate.
"I don't know, man. I think so?"
"Oh really? Why's that?" Vince asked, raising an eyebrow.
James bit his lip. "I just have a feeling, is all."
Vince nodded, a small smile playing at his lips. "He probably does, haven't you guys hung out a couple times?"
James nodded. "Once or twice for a biology project." He certainly wasn't going to tell the guys about the night he spent with Chris. And mentioning the kiss was out of the question.
"Great!" Eric said, slapping him on the back. "Come Friday night and he'll be all over you."
Biting his lip, James glanced between each of his teammates. "I don't know about this, guys. I don't think I really want to go through with this any more."
Noah raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"
"You don't have to actually do any gay shit, man. We'll make sure he keeps his hands to himself," Vince said. James tried not to roll his eyes at the irony. "C'mon, be a pal, take one for the team! It'll be fun!"
"Fun for you guys, maybe," James began, shooting Vince a look, "but how do you think it's gonna make him feel? Is this really something that's our business?"
"What's the worst that could happen? He's gotta come out some time. We're just speeding up the process is all," Eric justified.
"Would you want something like this to happen to you?" James asked, searching through his bag for his clothes. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Kevin was listening again, eyes flicking between James and Vince.
Vince shrugged. "I think you're exaggerating the consequences a little, dude. Sure, he'll be upset for a couple days, but then he'll realize, hey, we did him a favor. Now it's over and done with. Like ripping off a bandage, you gotta do it quickly or it'll hurt more."
Kevin slammed his locker shut and grabbed his bag, heading out of the room in a huff. James watched him leave with a look of sympathy and confusion, at a loss for what was bugging him.
"What's his problem?" Noah piped up.
"Probably girl stuff, he doesn't have a date yet from what I've seen," Eric suggested.
"Whatever," Vince said, bringing the discussion back to the previous topic. "So what d'you say, Jamesie? You with us, or against us?" He held out his hand for James to shake.
James sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, before taking Vince's hand. "With you," he finally said, wanting nothing more than to get the guys off his back.
"Good," Vince said with a smile, picking up his bag. Eric and Noah did the same. "We'll see you tomorrow, then. Keep up the good work, lover boy," he said, the three of them heading out of the locker room.
James slung his bag over his shoulder and let out a sigh, trying to pretend he hadn't done what he'd just done.
"Excuse me; can I talk to you for a minute?"
Connor sighed in annoyance and slipped a bookmark in the book he was reading. He had specifically come to the library to be able to read in peace, and he was already getting interrupted? He turned to the voice with an annoyed look on his face, which quickly turned to surprise. "Uh, sure, Kevin, what's up?"
"There's something really important I need to talk to you about," Kevin said, sitting across from Connor.
"Yeah, what about?"
Kevin took a deep breath. "It's about your friend Chris," he began.
Connor's mood deflated. Of course, the one time Kevin Price actually talks to him, he wants to talk about somebody else. "What about him?"
"It's just that," Kevin began, trying to figure out how to word things, "I know some stuff that he should know about, but I know he's not going to listen to me, so I figured since you're his best friend, he might listen to you."
"What's this about, Kevin?"
Kevin bit his lip before replying. "Connor, is Chris gay?"
Connor raised an eyebrow. "How is that any of your business?" he asked skeptically.
"Please, I mean no ill will, and anything he wants kept a secret is safe with me. I promise," he said, holding his hand out.
Connor stared at him for a few more moments, sizing him up, trying to determine if it was safe to say anything. Somehow, he seemed trustworthy. "He insists he's not, but honestly I've had my doubts for a while now…"
Kevin nodded. "The thing is, you're not the only one who thinks that. See, some of the guys from the football team… I don't know what their problem with him is, but they're trying to out him."
Connor's eyebrows shot up. "What?" he asked in disbelief.
"They've got James Church trying to lead him on so they can out him at the homecoming dance. And from what James has told the team, it's working."
Connor was silent for a long moment. Finally, "Are you serious?"
"I wouldn't joke about something like this."
Connor bit his lip. "This is bad. He really likes James. He thinks Nabulungi and I can't tell but it's really obvious."
Kevin nodded. "James knows, too. He tried to back out of the plan, he's starting to think it's not such a great idea either, but the guys have him wrapped around their fingers. That's why I had to tell you, if I tried to tell Chris he wouldn't believe me for a second."
Connor narrowed his eyes. "Hold up, why should I believe you? You're one of those football guys too, how do I know I can trust you? And why are you telling me this now rather than when this whole plan was started?"
Kevin sighed. "I knew you'd say that," he began, "and I understand where you're coming from. I tried to talk them out of it but they weren't going to budge. I thought that they would get bored and give up after a day or two like they usually do with their stupid plans, so I left it alone. But it's escalated to this point and I couldn't keep quiet about it anymore. I know I sound like a pretty awful person for not saying anything until now."
Connor stared at him. "You're not an awful person. But why do you care?" he asked. "This doesn't affect you. Why do you care about what happens to some kid you've never spoken to before?"
Kevin bit his lip before replying. "Because I know what it feels like to not be ready to come out, alright?" His tone was both defensive and afraid, a tone Connor knew all too well. Connor stared at him with wide eyes, so Kevin continued. "I can't imagine what being outed would feel like, and I don't want someone else to find out because I was too afraid to speak up."
Connor was surprised, to say the least. Looking back, he really had no reason to believe Kevin was gay until this point, which was why he had been keeping his crush to himself and his friends. "So you're…?" He didn't finish the sentence; rather, he let Kevin do it for him.
"Yeah. I don't really want anybody to know yet. You seem like a trustworthy person, though."
Connor nodded. "Yeah, of course, I won't say anything. But Kevin," he said gently, reaching across the table to rest his hand on the other boy's, "I can help you with that. Until you're ready."
Kevin smiled fondly. "Thank you. But first, we've got work to do."