Chapter 14

Chapter 14


"Coach Spencer! What can I do for you?" Billy asked as he stepped out onto the porch.

Sean waved for the boy to follow him. "Walk with me, son...."

"I ... you're not kicking me off the baseball team are you? I didn't have anything to do with what happened on Thursday," Billy stammered as he fell in beside the man.

"I know you knew about it and didn't report it, though," Sean said, striking terror into the boy's heart. "But no. In fact, I may let some of the boy's back onto my team. We'll see," Sean added. "I need to talk to you about Robert, Billy. Do you know what he did to get kicked out of his last school?"

"Uh, not really. He just said the 'little bitch' he'd been giving a hard time ratted him out." Billy said, averting his eyes. Truth was he hadn't really wanted to know what Robert had done to the boy; he probably would have told him.

"You've been at his side when a lot of the bullying went down, Billy. Did he do something to ... make you help him?" Sean asked.

"What do you mean?" Billy asked, legitimately confused.

"Blackmail, maybe?" Sean asked.

"NO!" Billy laughed. "He was just so cool, and all the kids listened to him.... You mean.... Did he blackmail someone?"

"Maybe," Sean asked. "Billy, if he gets in touch with you, you need to call the police."

"Why?" Billy asked. "What?"

"You're friend is a very dangerous and unstable boy, Billy. He'll hurt you too," Sean promised. "Call me if you need to talk," he added. "Me or Phil or Andy."

"Who's Andy?" Billy asked.

"Jim's dad," Sean replied.

Billy thought to himself, 'Not likely there.'

***

"Are you scared?" Jim asked as he sat on his bed and took his shoes off. Then he dropped his pants and stripped off his shirt. "This isn't a show," he added as Paul's eyes swept over him eagerly.

"It could be. You could get good money for this," Paul laughed. Jim held out his hand, and Paul amended, "From people who have good money!"

"Well, I'm gonna pop in a movie and turn out the lights, so get ready for bed," Jim said.

"I'm not tired," Paul pouted.

"Then you can cuddle with me," Jim said. Paul stripped to his boxers and slipped beneath the sheets so fast it was like watching a cartoon, and Jim doubled over laughing. Then he popped in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and climbed in next to Paul. "So, are you scared?" he asked again as Paul curled up into him and laid his head on his chest.

"A little," Paul smiled. "It may be a little crazy, but I just can't be too worried about it."

"Why not?" Jim asked.

"Because I'm so happy," Paul replied, smiling up at Jim before kissing him on the cheek. While Paul's hand rested on Jim's tight abdomen, his fingers were absentmindedly tracing the boy's muscles.

"That tickles," Jim said, smiling.

"I could show you tickles," Paul winked.

Jim smiled. "I bet you could. But this is great, right here...."

"You're sweet," Paul smiled, and they turned their attention to the movie.

***

"You want to go get dinner tomorrow night?" Sean asked Andy over the phone.

"I don't know," Andy said. "I should stay home with the boys."

"Why don't we all go out to eat together?" Sean suggested.

"I did tell Jim about us, but Paul doesn't know yet," Andy cautioned.

"Well, if we take the boys it will look less date-like anyway. We're buddies," Sean said. "Why don't we go to Dave and Busters?"

"That's really expensive, but the boy's would love it," Andy laughed, shaking his head.

"My treat," Sean said. "I've been living a bachelor's life on a good salary for a long time!"

"I couldn't let you do that," Andy said. "We're not that poor," he said cautiously.

"You and I can split it, then," Sean said.

"Okay," Andy said, smiling. "Tomorrow evening then!"

"What time do you get off? I'll meet you at your place," Sean said.

"I'll leave at 5:00, so meet me at 5:30?" Andy suggested.

"Cool," Sean replied, smiling to himself. "Is it sad that I miss you?"

"A little," Andy teased. "Me too, though."

***

Jim grabbed the remote and turned off the television. "Now I AM tired," Paul said with a smile, grabbing Jim's side and half-hugging him.

"Come here," Jim smiled down at him in the low light.

Paul crawled a little higher so his face was just a few inches from Jim's. Paul felt the boy's strong hand on his neck, drawing him in. Paul's lips parted as Jim kissed him with passion and pulled Paul half on top of him. Paul ran his hand down Jim's side as they made out feverishly, but as his hand reached the waistband of Jim's shorts, Jim smiled and broke their kiss.

"Paul," he said, grabbing the boy's hand in his. "I'm not ready for that!"

Paul blushed and averted his eyes. "I just ... wanted to show you how I feel."

Jim smiled and said, "I know how you feel. I can see it in your eyes when you look at me, and in your smile when you smile at me. Do you need this to know how I feel about you?"

"No," Paul said.

"I'll show you," Jim smiled and rolled over, flipping Paul on his back. Kneeling over the boy, he whispered, "Close your eyes." Paul smiled and did as he was told.

Jim gently lowered himself onto Paul, supporting most of his weight with his elbows and knees. With fingers light as feathers, he traced the boy's neck and jaw, and smiled as he felt the boy tremble with pleasure beneath him. Then he followed the path of his fingers with gentle kisses, occasionally letting his tongue taste the boy's silky skin, just slightly salty from a day's activity. Then he kissed the boy again, running his hand through the boy's soft hair.

When Jim broke their kiss, he propped up on his elbow a few inches above Paul and said, "That is how I feel about you!" Paul hugged him tight, pulling the big boy's weight down on him hard, feeling safe and secure. "What's wrong?" Jim asked as he felt the boy heave beneath him.

"I didn't know it could be like that," Paul whispered tearfully.

Jim rolled off and scooped him up in his arms, kissing him on the forehead. "I'm sorry," he whispered, soothing Paul by rubbing his back in slow circles until he drifted off. Jim lay awake holding him a while, thinking about how his life had changed and would change with his boy in his arms. And a little about how he'd like to beat Billy senseless.

***

Paul woke up the next morning and cuddled as close to Jim as he could, laying his hand on the boy's chest over his heart. He could feel the powerful beat beneath the muscular exterior. "Mmmm," Jim said. "Good morning!"

"I didn't mean to wake you up," Paul smiled.

"It's okay," Jim smiled. "I can think of way worse ways to wake up that this!"

"I can't think of a better way to wake up than this," Paul said, kissing his chest and smiling. They lay in bed and talked for a while until hunger got the best of them. They pulled on their pants and made their way to the kitchen; there was about half a gallon of sour milk and a loaf of stale bread in the refrigerator, along with a bunch of leftovers which were no good for breakfast.

"You guys weren't joking about your eating habits," Paul said with curled up nose. "Right. You want to go out and get something, go get groceries and make something here, or go to my house and rustle something up?"

"Let's save up and go to your place," Jim smiled.

"Okay. Better put a shirt on, then," Paul laughed. They finished getting dressed and walked out to the car. Jim called his dad to let them know they were on their way to Paul's house, where Paul made them egg sandwiches for breakfast. Then they spent the morning playing video games and lounging.

***

Billy was sitting at his desk in his room pondering his fate. He'd lost pretty much everything. He'd lost Paul twice, and his best friend was a psychopath and was now on the run from the police. His mom was disgusted by him and his father hated him.

Oh, yeah, after he and Robert had outed Paul, Billy's parents had put two and two together. His father had been drunk when he came into Billy's room and asked, "Are you a faggot too?"

"What?" Billy asked, nearly cowering.

"That faggot you've been spending so much time with.... Is he your boyfriend?" the man yelled.

"No," Billy said, nearly crying.

"Then what? You using him to get your sick jollies?" the man asked, backhanding him. Billy had expected it, but was still surprised when the man struck him. He was always surprised by the first blow. "No son of mine," he began.

"Maybe I'm not your son," Billy had lashed out. For a moment there was calm, and he had trouble remembering what happened after that. He woke up the next day looking like he'd gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. Well, he had his ear, but still.

His mother was a different story. Hers was a quiet rage, fueled by religion. She looked at him like you might look at a serial killer or a rapist – her look said 'I don't know you' aggressively. Billy had been living like that for months, an outcast in his own home, living with hostile forces bent on his correction or annihilation. His dad wouldn't kill him on purpose, but if they made him disappear emotionally, spiritually, that would be fine by them.

Billy got online and surfed the web. He'd be alone a lot this break. He played some games, browsed some porn. Most of the guys he liked were like Paul, but a little older; no surpise there. He chatted some with strangers, everyone playing mind games to no purpose. In the last chat site he visited before his parents got home and his world narrowed significantly, he asked a guy, "Do you think anybody would miss me if I was gone?"

The guy probably freaked, because Billy logged off without waiting for a response. He tossed himself back onto bed and stared at the ceiling. Who would miss him now? His mom would be relieved, and his dad might miss his punching bag. He smiled bitterly. Paul probably would miss him still, despite it all. Not the way he wanted Paul to miss him, but the boy would.

Billy reached under his bed and pulled out a duffle bag. He packed a few changes of clothes, some money he'd been saving, and a few precious memories in the bag, before stowing it under his bed. He wasn't going anywhere that night, but wanted to be ready.

***

Molly was home, and Paul told her their plans. She asked, "So have Andy and Sean always been so close?"

Paul shrugged. "I know they weren't for a long time. I guess they drifted apart after Andy's brother died; they're reconnecting. I think the coach is pretty lonely, and I know Andy is. Jim's been his whole world for a long time."

Molly nodded thoughtfully. "You boys watch out for yourselves out in public," she cautioned. "Do you need some money?" she asked, grabbing her purse.

"I probably should have some with me," he said, feeling guilty.

She ignored his look and handed him a $20, adding a cautionary, "Make it last."

"Thanks, mom," he said, giving her a hug and a kiss.

"Are you coming home tonight?" she asked.

He blushed and said, "It would be nice if I didn't have to...."

"Well, you have to stay home sometimes," she said with a faux frown.

"Tomorrow night?" he begged.

"Alright," she said.

"Jim," he called, "ask your dad if you can spend the night here tomorrow night!"

Molly laughed and said, "You know, you boys can't stay together all the time...."

"I know," Paul said with a melodramatic groan. "But it makes me feel better knowing he's there. With everything going on, I feel safer." It was true and it appealed to her motherly instincts. With a blush, he added, "We don't do anything but kiss...."

Molly blushed, too, and nodded. "Uhm, okay," she said. "Just ... I don't know, Paul ... what kind of advice could I give you? It’s always better to wait until it feels right."

"I was thinking I'd hold out for a ring," Paul teased her. "Or at the very least, a nice dinner...."

"Hush! Don't say such things to your mother," she said, waving him off. "Paul, just be true to yourself," she added as he went out to grab Jim's arm happily.

"I am, now," he said with a smile over his shoulder.

***

The boys had pockets full of tokens and were off playing games while Sean and Andrew sipped beers and waited on the food. "I went by the hospital today. Parents are a wreck now that its hitting them, what happened to their son I mean...."

"I can't imagine," Andy said. "If it had been Jim, I'd hunt him down and kill him." There was no doubt on Andy's face and Sean nodded.

"The police are looking," Sean said. "One of the guys let slip that there was more to it than we know. Seems like he hurt a kid real bad at his old school. Maybe some neighborhood kids too."

"Do they think he was abused as a kid?" Andy asked, grasping for something logic could hold onto.

"I don't know," Sean shrugged. "Anyway, the kid in the hospital, he's not doing too good. So I mentioned to the parents that Paul wants to talk to him. They said they'd ask."

"What do you think he wants?" Andy asked, mystified. "To figure out why they hate him so much? There is no REASON for that. This kid isn't going to give him any answers."

"That's not the feeling I get off this kid, Andy," Sean said. The boys approached laughing, but got serious when they saw the men's somber faces.

"What you guys talking about?" Paul asked.

"You," Sean said. "I talked to the parents today. They're talking to the boy about you coming to see him."

"Good," Paul said, sitting down next to Sean and letting Jim sit by his dad.

"Why?" Sean asked. "Why do that?"

Paul looked at him with a kind of simplicity and said, "I want to tell him that I'm sorry for what happened to him, and that I don't blame him."

The three stared at him for a moment in a kind of shock, and Sean actually wiped his eye. In the end, he couldn't help but wrap a huge arm around the boy and squeeze.

"You don't have to forgive him," Jim said.

"I don't have to," Paul said. "I want to. He's hurting more than I am. He's suffered something I can't even imagine."

Jim grabbed his hand, not caring how public the place was, and squeezed. "Where did you come from?" he asked with a smile as if the two of them were the only people in the world.

"You guys do make a cute couple," Sean said with a smile. "And I felt bad the other night!" They all laughed. Soon dinner arrived, and afterwards, the men joined the boys in playing some games. Later, when it was time to go, they all rode back to Andy's, where they'd met. The boys ran inside and Andy and Sean lingered outside.

"I really want to kiss you," Andy said, looking around and seeing lights on in plenty of windows.

Sean noticed to and said, "It's the life we live," with a shrug.

"Come inside?" Andy asked.

Sean looked into his eyes and said, "The boys...."

"Paul will keep your secret," Andy said. "I can't believe I'm the one begging you to stay," he added with a smile. "Please?"

Sean's shoulders sank and he nodded with a smile. He followed Andy inside.

"Hey, you gonna hang out a while?" an excited Paul asked.

The two men looked at each other nervously, so Jim put an arm around Paul and said, "Dad and Sean are fairies for each other now!"

"Whoah!" Paul said. "NO WAY!"

"It's sort of secret for now, Paulie," Jim said. "Okay?"

"Yeah, sure, but wow," Paul said, smiling. Then he teased, "Did we just have a double date?"

"Go to bed!" Andy said with a wave and a wink. Jim and Paul laughed and ran off. "Now, we're alone!"

Sean took his hand and led him to the bedroom, closing the door and pinning him to the wall with a kiss.

***

Andy woke early the next morning for work and rolled over, wrapping an arm around the big man in his bed. "I gotta go soon," he whispered.

"Mmmkay," came Sean’s drowsy response.

Andy chuckled and said, "Sleep in...."

"You sure?" Sean asked.

"Just remember the boys are here! Put some clothes on before you wander," Andy laughed.

Sean rolled over and kissed him, before dozing off. Andy showered and dressed quietly, occasionally glancing at the hunk in his bed. 'How did you get to this point?’ he asked himself. Totally unexpected, but not unwelcome. What surprised him most, perhaps, was how natural it felt to find Sean in his bed.

***

[FLASHBACK]

“Andy, can you take us swimming?” Denton begged.

“I'm really busy, Dent,” Andy sighed at his 14 year old brother, who'd been nagging him for days to take him and his Siamese twin, Sean, to the swimming hole.

“You just want to watch Sean in his swimsuit,” Andy teased.

“He looks so cute in it!” the boy answered, rather than denying. It was cool that the one person he could share that with was his hero and his big brother. Denton idolized Andy, and it was the worst kept secret in town. And Andy was cool with that, because he and his brother had always been thick as thieves.

Andy smiled at him and said, “Okay, but ask mom!”

The boy smiled back and said, “She already said it was okay this morning!”

“AND Sean's already on his way, right?” Andy asked.

“He's already here!” Denton replied.

Andy shook his head and marked the summer reading assignment he was working on before shutting the book. Andy changed into his swim trunks and pulled on a t-shirt. He grabbed a pile of towels and went down to find the boys laughing and talking.

“We got towels!” Denton said.

“These are to keep the seats dry on the way home!” Andy answered him. They'd also be good for lying on at the lake. When they arrived, they found a lot of other people had the same idea, but Andy parked near the relatively secluded spot he tended to favor.

They unloaded, spread out their towels, and splashed into the cool, river-fed lake, where the younger boys teamed up on Andy in order to force him to toss them around. Sean was a small boy, and even though Denton was a budding jock, Andy had years and muscle on him yet, so they enjoyed their game with him. Of course, this tired Andy out fast, and he waded out to lie on the bank and catch his breath.

The boys emerged later, laughing, but someone waved for Denton down the beach. Sean shook his head when Denton shot him a questioning look, and Denton said, “Be right back!”

“He won't be,” Sean smiled without a hint of bitterness, though he watched his friend walk away.

“The curse of being loved,” Andy smiled. “You should have gone with him!”

“They put up with me, but it’s only for him,” Sean said. “I'd rather hang with you!”

“Yeah?” Andy smiled, rolling to face the boy.

“Sure! People love you too,” he said shyly.

“Nah,” Andy said, but the boy’s head-shake was emphatic. “Maybe I just don’t love people then,” Andy laughed and shrugged.

“What about me?” Sean asked with a blush.

Andy put a hand on his shoulder and said, “YOU are definitely an exception,” making Sean blush harder. Andy thought ‘You’re cuter when you blush.’ Then, ‘Whoah, what!?’ But he couldn’t keep his eyes from a survey of the boy before him.

Sean had always been thin, but without Andy’s noticing it the baby fat had melted away. Not a lot of muscle tone, but smooth, boyish muscle was apparent, as well as a little trail finally beginning to lead into his shorts. ‘Somebody’s growing up,’ he thought to himself.

“What?” Sean asked with a shy smile, shocking him from his reverie.

“Hmmm?” Andy asked, worrying he’d actually said something out loud.

“You were smiling weird,” the boy said.

“Oh, just drifted off for a minute,” Andy deflected.

“Do you think I’ll ever grow?” Sean asked shyly. “It’d be nice to have some muscle!”

‘You look great the way you are,’ Andy thought. “You’ll grow some, for sure! But you don’t have to wait. Work out, or join a team. Build some muscle!”

“Those are the guys I want the muscle for,” Sean said.

‘So he wasn’t worried about looks,’ Andy thought. ‘God knows he shouldn’t!’ With concern, he asked, “Is someone bothering you?”

“No more than usual,” Sean said with a dark grimace.

“Sean,” Andy said, rubbing his arm. “If someone bothers you, I’m going to kick their ass. You just tell me!” That was the moment Sean’s little crush on Denton’s big brother blossomed to rival that he had on Denton. He wished Andy would never withdraw that comforting hand, but it would have been awkward if he didn’t.

***

[PRESENT DAY]

Danny was home with his mom on Thursday, so Christina called Paul up. "Whatcha doin?"

"Just playing video games with Jim," he said. "We're over at his place."

"Oh," she said, disappointed.

"Danny busy today?" Paul asked with a smile.

"Yes," she grunted, unhappy to be caught.

"Come over here?" Paul suggested. "We're not getting out today...."

"You sure? I don't want to get in the way of playtime!" she giggled.

"Christina! We're just playing video games!" he protested.

"Is that what they're calling it these days?" she teased.

"Just get your ass over here, skank," Paul said. "And pick up some hamburgers on the way!"

"See you in a bit," she laughed.

"So, Christina's coming over?" Jim asked with a smile.

Paul's eyes widened nad he said, "Oh, sorry! You don't mind do you?" Paul's face was red with embarrassment.

Jim hugged him across the shoulder and said, "No!"

"What's Danny up to?" Paul asked.

"There's a memorial service tomorrow for his dad," Jim said. "I've gotta go, and you're invited too, if you can...."

"Sure!" Paul said with concern. "I didn't realize his dad had died. Was he sick?"

"No," Jim smiled. "Danny's dad passed away about five or six years ago. Right after my mom left, really. One of the reasons we got to be so close, I guess. Nobody else understood us...."

"I had no idea," Paul said.

"Well, we went to a different middle school than you, and Danny doesn't exactly talk about ... anything private," Jim added.

"No kidding," Paul said. "So what's the service all about?"

"One of the streets in downtown is being renamed for his dad, so there's a big memorial beforehand. Some bigwigs and Army buddies are coming down, and family from all over. Danny wants some friends there to buffer, I guess," Jim answered. Paul was quiet as he considered it.

"Do you think that's why he's so obsessed with doing the right thing?" Paul asked. "I mean, why he's done what he did for me?"

"At first, yeah," Jim said. "That and loyalty. His dad was all about that. There was Christina, and then there was me...."

Paul nodded, and then his eyes went wide. "Danny knew how you felt about me?"

"Since the lake," Jim nodded.

"Don't mention that again," Paul smiled. "Christina would blow a fuse since he didn't tell her!"

"RIGHT!" Jim said.

"So what was his dad like?" Paul asked.

"Captain America," Jim responded. When Paul laughed, Jim shook his head. "No, THAT is what his army buddies used to call him. Danny's dad was badass. He was an Army Ranger. In fact, he had been sent off as a hand-to-hand combat instructor at the Rangers' training school, but he was reactivated and sent to Iraq on a secret mission. His body was never recovered, but Danny says they said his dad may have killed 15 or 20 guys before they took him down...."

"Holy God," Paul murmured.

"Danny started martial arts training with his dad," Jim nodded, "but after he died, Danny got in deep. Did you know he has black belts in a couple of different martial arts?"

"No, I didn't," Paul said, getting a little pale. 'Poor Danny,' he thought to himself. "So, what's tomorrow gonna be like?"

"Ever been to the circus?" Jim asked. "Replace the clowns with commandos!"

About half an hour later, Christina arrived with lunch and they all sat eating in the living room. They were laughing and talking when Sean emerged, showered and dressed from Jim's dad's bedroom. His eyes widened at the sight of the familiar face of his captain's girlfriend. His face was frozen in 'Oh Shit' mode.

Christina looked at him and said, "Coach Spencer?"

Jim hurried to explain, "My dad and coach were friends from childhood. Coach had one too many last night and couldn't drive home, so he slept on the couch and moved to the bed when dad left for work this morning!"

"Well, that was way too elaborate an explanation," Christina said with furrowed brow. "I'm not stupid. He's got a fresh hickey!"

Paul looked at her and said, "YOU CAN'T TELL ANYONE!"

"But...." she murmured.

"NOBODY," Paul demanded. "I will never speak to you again if this gets out of this room!" And she could tell he was serious.

She pursed her lips and looked at the coach, who looked terrified now, and smiled. "Okay.... But you should tell Danny," she added, looking to Jim. "You know he won't care!"

Sean sighed with relief, and said, "I WILL talk to Danny, but after tomorrow. He's got enough on his mind right now, young lady."

"I know." she said. "I didn't mean immediately! So you and Jim's dad?" Sean laughed and blushed, while she smiled and shook her head. "It's raining gays, huh?"

"It just seems that way because Danny's the only straight guy you hang out with," Paul teased.

"I think Danny likes that," she added with a wink.

Sean smiled and said, "I'm gonna get out of here! Tell your dad I'll call him tonight, Jim!'

"Okay! See you, coach!" Jim replied.

"Bye, Sean!" Paul added.

"Come lock the door behind me, Jim!" the man ordered, and Jim hurried to do just that.

"What's the big deal with locking the door?" she asked, and Paul filled her in on what she knew.

"Oh, shit," she said, digging through her purse for her phone.

"What?" Paul asked.

"Danny should know about this!" she said. "After all, it's Danny who got in his face!" Paul nodded, thinking about that as she made the phone call. Heaven wouldn't help Robert if he ever went one-on-one with Danny.

 

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