A very special thanks to everyone who have been so kind to leave a review with your thoughts about the story. I also want to thank those who have submitted the story to your favourites and/or follows. Thanks to everyone for the support! :) And last but not least a huge 'thank you' to my adorable Beta-Reader Jess, whose help I find invaluable. Nothing else to be said, other than enjoy the chapter! :)
Hunter looked at Sebastian through the corner of his eye, as surreptitiously as he could. He felt an odd sensation settling in his stomach, unpleasant and elating at the same time. And it was at moments like this one that he felt a suffocating fear climbing up his spine with sharp claws, what if he was...? Hunter didn't even want to think of the word. Just thinking about it, giving it even the slightest hint of acknowledgement would make it real, and the emotions that he still refused to admit to himself he kept caged would release. It would ruin him.
His reaction had nothing to do with his family being non-accepting. As far as he could recall, they have never said anything on the matter, at least directly. But there always were passing comments, whispered words at family reunions, expressions that could have meant acceptance or disapproval depending on the way they were said. His parents were difficult to read at times, and Hunter had long since decided it was better not to ask for clarification.
And yet again, it wasn't because his parents were too strict or not fair-minded enough. It all came down to his insecurities and fears, rather than the possible bad reaction that his family could have. Hunter had repeated over and over again the same things to himself that he was no longer able to pinpoint when the rationality was speaking and when his heart was doing so, inside his mind.
If Sebastian became aware of his troubled expression or his gaze towards him, he made a grand job at hiding it. To be honest, Hunter didn't know how to behave around Sebastian. Although he always tried to remain in control and at ease, a military-strict facade, the taller boy was a challenge –not only because of the things he said or did, but also for the tangled emotions he aroused in Hunter, feelings that knew of annoyance, a slight hatred but also of something that he couldn't quite name yet... or maybe it was something he hadn't plucked up the courage to face either.
"As soon as we get out of here, I'm fetching the nurse... you don't look good, Clarington." He heard Sebastian mumble, breaking his rail of thoughts with the sudden statement.
Sebastian did it partly because he was starting to get sick of the silence (and frankly he may have over-reacted about the whole thing), partly because Hunter's gaze was making him feel equally uncomfortable and, well, also delighted.
Hunter merely looked at him, to nod briefly afterwards. The pain on his legs and body in general wasn't unbearable, but it was slightly causing him discomfort. He was pretty sure he hadn't broken anything, luckily for him.
When he stretched his legs, however, a sharp wave of pain washed over him and couldn't help but let out a suffocated whimper. Sebastian reacted almost immediately, his expression grew worried and soon he was by Hunter's side with a clearly wary expression on his face. The taller boy seemed to be troubled, as if he was constantly suppressing actions in the fear of upsetting the other boy somehow
Cautiously, Sebastian kneeled next to Hunter, who could only look at him as his throat went dry all out of sudden at the other boy's proximity. Sebastian shifted, slightly awkward at the acknowledgment of the Captain's unease, and then hovered uncertainly, waiting for Hunter's reaction to their closeness. As the brunette remained still, Sebastian gave him a reassuring look and moved his hands towards the other boy's right foot. He did it slowly, so Hunter could stop him if he was feeling uncomfortable or somewhat invaded by his actions.
Hunter didn't even flinch, not even when Sebastian fingers grabbed the border of his riding trousers and hitched them up, brushing their skins together without intending it. Sebastian, however, noticed that Hunter's skin was turning slightly red. When he lifted up the left leg from the boy's trousers up to his knee, he saw it: the ankle was red and very swollen. When he felt it, cautiously, Hunter couldn't muster the will to suppress a twitch.
"Shit, I'm sorry. Did I hurt you? Ehm... more than you already are, I mean." He blurted out.
Hunter didn't answer immediately; he took his time to inspect the injury instead. With a quick look, he realised that he had indeed sprained his left ankle. Well, maybe he hadn't been so lucky after all. The brunette sighed heavily and tried to keep the anger to himself, Sebastian didn't really deserve to be the target of his frustration at that moment.
"No, you haven't, don't worry. It's just... it hurts. The last serious injury I had was back at my old school and, well, let just say I was hoping I had already covered the annual quota." He answered, shrugging it off and trying to ignore the pain as much as he could.
Sebastian had turned around whilst he was talking, and was actually seeking eagerly for something in his sports bag, leaving a mess of discarded things all around them on the floor. He turned around after a few seconds to face Hunter again, holding an elastic bandage in his hands. Hunter raised an eyebrow, an unspoken question if he knew how to put that thing on. Sebastian let his lips curve into a small smile as a response.
"Smythe, have you ever given first-aids to someone?"
"Yep. When you have a hyper-active brother like Scott, you're bound to know stuff like this overtime, or else he wouldn't be walking right now."
The hazelnut-haired one asked, as he examined the injury closely, his eyes lighting up with concern, and measured how much bandage he'd need to bandage Hunter's leg up.
"And it's my duty after all, you know, older brother and stuff..." He didn't finish the sentence, probably finding the rest easy to be guessed.
Hunter was puzzled. He had never heard of any siblings before, and although he was curious about it, he couldn't exactly ask Sebastian about his brother out of the blue. The few half an hour they have spent together without jumping at each other's throats didn't exactly count as enough 'friend' bonding to start questioning his personal life.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. I've siblings too, although the best definition for Cassie is a pain in the ass but still." He didn't finish his statement either, partly for the same reasons as Sebastian and partly because the boy before him had just tightened the bandage around the injury that caused a stab of pain to sweep through him.
"Well, aren't all younger siblings like that?" Sebastian retorted, finding it slightly funny. "I actually have to take care of two, you know. I have another brother even younger than Scott, Trent. Speaking of which, how old is Cassie?" He asked the Captain, sounding curious, as he sat on the floor across him.
Hunter tried to find a more comfortable position before answering the question, stretching his body and muscles even though the position in which he was sitting, body against the column and the wall, couldn't be considered injury-prone at all.
"She's eleven and turning twelve next Monday. She's already over the moon about her birthday," Hunter confessed, his expression grew tender as he spoke about his younger sister. "She wants me to take her to a One Direction concert and I honestly don't have the heart to tell her no. Although I don't know how on Earth I am going to endure that." This time, he rolled his eyes at the mere idea; the prospect of being surrounded by screaming teenagers got him on his nerves.
Sebastian found that adorable, even though he'd never admit having that thought. Not ever. He chuckled slightly at the thought of Hunter's distress, and nodded as if he agreed with him. He folded his arms over his chest to keep himself warm and tried not to think about how hungry he was. Damn, he still didn't know how they had ended up locked up in the first place.
"Well, who could have guessed you have a soft side, Clarington?" Sebastian teased him, playfully.
Hunter grunted and glared at him.
"Fuck you, Smythe."
"I'll be delighted." Sebastian answered, before thinking it twice and with flirting tone included.
It was when Hunter eyes widened in amazement that the he realised what he had just said. Oh, crap. Well, he was lucky Hunter had sprained his ankle; he could get on his feet right now and start running as fast as he could. After all, he liked his face as it was, pretty and perfect, bruise-free also; thank you very much.
The scratchy noise of the pen over the paper was suddenly interrupted. Thad raised his head, ignoring his History essay for the first time in the last hour. He glanced quickly at the clock. An hour had gone by since Nick locked up Hunter and Sebastian into the locker rooms.
The boy in question was lying on the floor, carefree, lobbing a ball into the air and catching it when gravity did its work. A chuckle played in his throat, and he let it out in a soft hum.
"How much do you guys wanna bet that they're jumping at each other's bones by now?" Nick asked, a mischievous smile plastered on his face.
Jeff paid no heed to Nick's question; for he was too busy playing to some random video game in his laptop. Nevertheless, Thad's brow furrowed.
"And what if they're on the verge of killing each other? Didn't that possibility cross through that imaginative mind of yours?"
"Don't be ridiculous, Thaddeus. Those two need to come to terms with the fact they're bound to be together. No matter how badly Hunter wants everyone to think that he doesn't like to raise another man's flag, I know better." He answered, lifting his chin in a cunning gesture.
"Besides, you should pay more attention to the way they act around each other! The other day Sebastian spent the majority of Warbler practice just checking out Hunter through the corner of his eye... haven't you noticed the way Hunter always claims that Sebastian doesn't get the moves right when he's the only one that is actually dancing properly? And so he shows off in front of him?" He snorted, raising his eyebrows. "And, please, don't get me started with the last lacrosse game when Sebastian took off his shirt to celebrate, not that he usually waits for an excuse. Flint was pretty sure that Hunter's eyes were roaming over Sebastian's bare chest from the distance, and that the look on his face wasn't precisely, you know, of disgust."
He repressed the impulse of adding that the light in Hunter's eyes was, according to Flint, strangely needy and anxious. The awkwardness that soon had followed had enabled Flint to read some sort of unease in Hunter; as if he was having a battle with his own mind -judging by the troubled expression that had appeared on his face. After a while Hunter had composed himself enough to smack Flint in the arm, and that had ended the awkward moment soon enough.
Thad, however, shook his head in disagreement.
"All that I'm saying is that we don't know Hunter well enough to predict how he will react. Besides, it's Sebastian I'm worried for, because if you're right, we're talking about two people with a leaning of hiding his emotions. What do you think is going to become from that?" Thad pointed out, his voice growing preoccupied as he spoke.
Jeff patted him on the shoulder, smiling brightly. Apparently the level of the conversation on its own had been enough to draw his attention.
"Give Sebastian more credit. He's not an idiot, I am sure he knows how to ehm... test the waters."
After a few more minutes of discussion, however, the three of them agreed they should unlock the doors –not just for the safety of the plan, but also because they'd all be in a serious trouble if someone found the two boys there the following morning. Silently, they made their way to the metal doors. Nick couldn't stop whispering that he was so going to win that bet.
Far from being offended, Hunter remained silent as he suppressed all the impulses of snapping aggressively at the slimmer boy. He was just joking around, this was Sebastian Smythe –his daily activities included such things, along with being insufferable, arrogant, and assertive as well as other things that Hunter wasn't going to think about at that moment, or he could run the risk of letting his imagination run wild.
Hunter throat had actually gone dry at the response, and he was pretty damn sure his heart was racing… but just at the thought of being the target of Sebastian mocking, right? It had to be that. He couldn't let his mind go beyond that. Just, no.
When a heavy sigh escaped from Hunter's clenched jaw, Sebastian read it as a signal to get the hell out of there –if he could only do so, naturally. He was about to stand up fast when he realised Hunter hadn't moved a muscle. Puzzled, the taller boy eyes fixed on him, now more worried than scared.
"Hunter, I am sorry I didn't mean to..."
Why the blazes was he even apologising for? He was Sebastian fucking Smythe, he never apologised —sure, his siblings and real friends were an exception, but when did he start apologising to Hunter?
Hunter's face stayed blank, but he answered in a solemnly calm voice.
"I know you weren't implying anything. Really, it's okay. Don't worry about it."
He assured him, clearly trying to smile slightly in an attempt to ease the tension between them but failing spectacularly at it.
"As I was saying, I don't know what I am going to do. I haven't even got the tickets yet and I'd better hurry or there won't be any more left." He trailed off, as if Sebastian had just commented on the weather and hadn't let an innuendo slip into their prior conversation.
"Well, you should get them. Talking from experience, it's not easy to deal with a tantrum." Sebastian pointed out in a relaxed tone.
Hunter nodded in agreement.
"What about your brothers? I haven't really met them yet." Hunter asked, enquiring, truly curious. To be honest, maybe he would have to give Little Miss Patriot some sugar lumps on Friday; Smythe wasn't precisely unlikeable after all.
Sebastian lifted his chin, rubbed his eyes a bit before responding.
"Well, the most remarkable aspect is that they look like me, and when I say it I mean it. We're triplets." He said, smiling slightly at the other boy's amusement.
"We tend to style our hair different so other people don't confuse us, although you can easily tell who is who just by the personalities. Plus, as I've mentioned already, Scott is much of a hyperactive kid so... you won't miss that."
Sebastian explained Hunter what he had already told to Thad, Jeff and Nick when they first met his siblings –although the most accurate description would be 'when Thad tried to drag a very confused Trent to the choir room, convinced he was Sebastian and was trying to skip practice'.
Sebastian couldn't believe that he was actually enjoying Hunter's company. Before this encounter, just to give a name to this thing they both had to sit through, he had thought that the other student was nothing more than a self-confident, big-headed, boastful, strict boy who thought he could tread on everyone's toes, boss them around and that the Warblers have to get along with that just because now it was him who was in charge. Well, to be honest, he still thought Hunter was a big-headed bastard, at least now he was one he could relate to. Who knew if he wouldn't grow fond of him as well?
Well, that was a stupid thought. He definitely needed to rest. And also eat; the lack of nutrients was messing with his neurones, apparently.
"Hey, can you stand up?" He asked Hunter, who nodded.
Sebastian ignored the other's protest and helped him to stand on his feet again. They grabbed their bags and headed to the entrance doors once again, hoping that by some sort of miracle they were opened. To their amusement, they indeed were. They laugh and sighed in relief at the realization. They had opened far too easily for Sebastian not to expect any trickery involved- trickery supplied by a certain excitable student and his blond haired friend, but he was far too happy to be free to consider revenge. At least for now, anyway, he'd make them pay later. It just gave him more time to plan…
Silence settled down between them as they headed to their dorms. They were both too tired to utter another word. Sebastian, however, remembered the thing that amidst the relief they had forgotten and dragged Hunter all the way down to the nurse's office.
"Well, who would have guessed that you are not only a pain in the ass as I had initially thought?" Hunter confessed when they reached his dorm.
"The feeling is mutual, my Captain." Sebastian said, chuckling.
Hunter pulled the door opened and then turned around, his body resting a bit awkwardly on the doorframe. He stuck his hand out.
"See you around, Sebastian."
Sebastian grabbed it and shook hands with him. He looked into Hunter's eyes and could see there was something mirroring there, something probably mirrored in his own —something that he couldn't name quite yet, but a feeling that had all the signs of a growing friendship.
"See you around, Hunter."
And with that, Hunter closed the door, and Sebastian walked a few meters to enter his dorm. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Thad, Nick and Jeff in there, the two latter of them were looking at him with mischievous smiles creeping over their faces. Then, the plan to spend time creating an elaborate revenge was thrown out of the window as he registered the row of smirking faces.
"Nicholas Duval, consider yourself a dead man!" He screamed to the top of his voice, not really caring if he woke up the whole school.
Let's see how long this truce last between this two, shall we? I am not going to spoil you the next and final part of this story, but what I can tell you is that there's a surprise in store for both Sebastian and Hunter ;) I hope you have enjoyed this chapter, and that you're eager to keep reading! Remember that a writer who gets feedback is a happy writer, apart from being an encouragement to update sooner :)