Brae
by Kieron Connors

 

Chapter 9 

The next day felt like an out-of-body experience.

I coasted through practice as though on auto-pilot, which I took as a reassuring sign. I was obviously adapting well to Timmy’s coaching style and I felt as though I was proving myself to him and to the rest of the team.

After practice I grabbed a quick breakfast with Tate and then went up to my room to do some reading. I had British Literature first, as did Tate, so the two of us took off together for class. I was glad to have an ally by my side and to share this memorable experience with someone I really cared about. With Tate by my side I truly felt invincible.

The class had about 25 people, most of whom looked older than us, but the professor was a bubbly and charismatic older man who seemed passionate about his subject matter and enthusiastic about teaching. His demeanor set the tone for the room. I had expected some of the English majors to come off as pretentious and obsessively abstract, based on some of the conversations I overheard prior to the start of class, but his presence seemed to calm down the overly-inflated egos in the class.

The professor spent the first lecture constructing a historical context for our reading. He gave us both social and historical information about what life was like in 19th century Britain, and some background on the authors and books we were going to be reading.

My next class was public speaking. It was smaller and I didn’t know anybody in it, however it seemed like a highly interactive class and I was sure I’d get to know people quickly. The professor was a young grad student who seemed really enthusiastic, if a little nervous, about teaching for the first time. She went through our syllabus and gave us some background on the types of speeches we’d be expected to give over the course of the quarter.

And like that my first day of class was over. I went home, called my mom and gave her the rundown of my first day and my weekend at the cottage. The management company had already been there and called to let her know that everything looked good, so I scored points for responsibility. She seemed busy with galas, luncheons and the usual events, but was really looking forward to our upcoming weekend together.

“So how is everything with Skip?” Her voice sounded casual and yet I could detect the note of concern she’d tried to disguise.

“Great!” I lied. “He had so much fun this weekend,” I lied again.

“Oh he went too? You didn’t mention that.”

Well of course I hadn’t. I decided to try evading the subject.

“And my new roommate is great! We’ve been getting alone really well and he’s even in some of my classes.”

“Oh, that’s great.”

“Yeah, he’s in Brit Lit and he’s really into it, so we’ve been throwing ideas around and stuff. It’s good, I think it will keep me sharp for class discussion.”

“Yes, it definitely will.”

“And it’s really cool that he grew up in Paris. I just feel like his life experiences have been so different than mine. His dad sounds like quite a character.”

“Yes, Giles Vallette has always struck me as a bit eccentric,” my mom replied. “But he is undeniably a genius and such a sweet old man.”

“Old?” I asked.

“Well, sort of. He’s in his 60’s at least. I mean he was already quite successful when I modeled for him, although he hadn’t moved to Paris yet.” my mom replied.

“Oh, weird. Somehow I didn’t realize that,” I replied.

“Yes, but he’s got a youthful charm about him,” my mom said. “And he always gives so generously to the Breast Cancer Month Gala. I believe his wife had it a few years ago.”

“Oh. Tate never mentioned that,” I replied.

“Well I would imagine he doesn’t want to relive it. It was probably very traumatic. I believe he was very young.”

“Yeah,” I replied.

Tate got home a few minutes later and I wrapped things up with my mom so that he and I could go grab lunch before practice.

“So how did your other classes go?” I asked as we loaded our trays with food. Tate had had two classes after Brit Lit.

He groaned. “Well, Intro to Poli-Sci was fine… sorta dry, but okay. History of Fashion was a nightmare. The professor recognized me and it was all downhill from there…”

“Oh, yikes. Sorry,” I said, leading the way to a vacant table.

“After that he wanted my input on everything and basically acted sort of afraid of me. He would have deferred to me on anything. It was so ridiculous! I don’t really know anything about fashion!”

“Yeah. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon enough,” I laughed. “And he’ll get used to having you in his class.”

“Yeah, let’s just hope I don’t die of humiliation first. Everyone in that classroom stared at me like I was the second coming. It was so bizarre.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Anyways, how was Public Speaking?”

“It was good. The teacher is really young. She seems relatable. And the class is pretty small, only like a dozen kids.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah and I called my mom after classes,” I said.

“Yeah, I hafta do that,” Tate grinned.

“She is very curious about you,” I continued. “She actually knows your father. She said he’s sweet.”

“Oh really?” Tate said. “How funny. Small world.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll have to ask my dad if he knows her,” he said.

“I doubt he’d remember her. She modeled for him before I was born. And now she chairs the Breast Cancer Month Gala which he donates to,” I said.

“Oh, yeah, that’s one of his pet charities,” Tate replied. “My mom had breast cancer when I was little.” Pain flashed in his eyes and he looked down for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” I said, suddenly feeling bad for probing.

“It’s okay. She’s fine now. They got it early and everything.”

“Still, that must be really hard,” I said, reaching a hand across the table and squeezing his. “Especially when you’re so young. You must have been so scared. I can’t imagine having to go through that.”

“Yeah, it was hard,” he said, quietly. “I had never seen my dad look so scared before, I’d never seen him cry. It was a very surreal experience. Thank god I had Elise. She really stepped up through all of it.” I still hadn’t taken my hand off of Tate’s and my thumb slowly stroked his in soft, gentle passes. He looked down at our hands and smiled, then put his other hand on top of mine and gave it a squeeze. “We should get going, huh?” He looked up at me, his brilliant blue eyes a little moist, and his teeth nervously gnawing on his lower lip.

“Sure,” I replied. “Timmy awaits!”

***

We were in the weight room for most of our afternoon practice which was a nice break. Tate and I grabbed dinner in the dining hall with Kenner and Cameron afterwards and the four of us recapped our first days. With the exception of Kenner, who was publicly reprimanded for being 20 minutes late to class (after getting lost), we all had successful days. Afterwards, the four of us went back to our room to watch a movie and play a little Wii. They left by 10pm and Tate and I turned in shortly thereafter.

Thursday went much the same way: practice in the morning, classes in the afternoon. Those classes (Macroeconomics and Accounting 101) were significantly less stimulating than my classes the day before. Then more practice in the afternoon, dinner and some pre-bed laziness before hitting the sack early. I was surprised not to see Skip in either of my classes that afternoon, since I knew we had registered for the same ones. They were both large seminars with close to 200 people, but I did give the room a very thorough look-over and I was pretty confident that he wasn’t there. I wondered if he switched classes or sections to avoid me, or if he was just skipping.

Emmie was practically irate that Tate and I were committing the egregious sin of staying in on the first Thursday night of the quarter, but we were both happy to be getting through the week in one piece and didn’t feel the need to push it. We promised her we’d both go out the following night and then spent the rest of the evening lounging around and reviewing our Brit Lit reading.

Friday morning was the first time the divers joined us for morning practice. We hadn’t socialized with them much yet, but I was sure that we would once we were traveling together for meets. I watched them from the wall on the few breathers that Timmy allowed us and, while there weren’t any superstars, they seemed liked a solid bunch. Eric pointed out his girlfriend to me and narrated us through the new dive she was learning. He whooped and beamed with pride when she finally nailed it, his large dark eyes sparkling with excitement. Lip razzed him a bit and Henry seemed annoyed by Eric’s exuberance but I found his display of affection truly touching. I hoped that someday I would find someone who I could care about and whose life I could become invested in, like Eric had found in Olivia.

My Friday classes went well and Tate and I found ourselves practically leading the discussion in our Brit Lit class. It was obvious that a number of students hadn’t managed or bothered to complete the assigned reading, let alone done the course reading in advance. I felt pretty confident about my prospects in that class and I enjoyed the professor more and more each time I saw him.

Afternoon practice went well. The end of the week usually felt like the end of a marathon as things began to wind down and I could look forward to a bit of a break. Only one more practice until close to two days of well earned rest! It was daunting to think that this schedule was basically going to be my life for the next four years. Even though I was adjusting well to the workouts and they were not as difficult as they had been at first, my body was still crying out with exhaustion at the end of the week. Perhaps we’d lighten things up by the time we started having meets.

***

That evening, after Tate and I took long post-practice naps, we headed into Carrington to have dinner with the girls at a BYOB Chinese place that Emmie insisted we had to experience.

The restaurant was small and sectioned into intimate sections so that larger parties essentially had their own private areas, while there were a few smaller tables on the main floor. The walls were a cheery yellow and covered with kitschy Americana collectibles that seemed sort of out of place in a Chinese restaurant. The back wall was entirely covered in license plates and there were shelves everywhere showcasing vintage Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottles, Elvis and Marilyn memorabilia, Matchbox cars, Pez dispensers and a wide variety of other knick-knacks.

“Geez, this place is weird,” Tate whispered to me as the host led us back to the table where the girls, Colin, and Carl were already waiting.

Two large jugs of Carlo Rossi sangria and chablis were sitting on the table and there was a cube of Bud Light on one of the empty chairs.

“Oh god,” I groaned, taking in all the alcohol.

Carl and Colin both laughed.

“Yeah, the girls don’t seem to understand the concept of 6am practice,” Carl said with a chuckle. Emmie gave an unconcerned shrug.

Tate and I took our seats and quickly looked over the menu so we wouldn’t hold up ordering.

“So how was your first week of classes?” Lottie asked after our server had taken our orders and looked at us as though we were raging alcoholics. He had inquired as to whether there would be more people joining our party and whether or not he should bring extra glasses. Nicola unapologetically told him that it was just going to be us and that we would do with our livers what we pleased.

“Good!” I replied, taking a sip of sangria. “I think I’m really going to love Brit Lit and Public Speaking and I’ll get through the other stuff because I have to.”

“What about you, Tate?” Emmie asked.

“Mine are alright. I love Brit Lit. It’s nice to be in a class with someone I know.” He looked at me and smiled.

“Tate has found that he is a bit of a celebrity in his fashion class,” I said. Tate rolled his eyes and groaned.

“Welcome to the club, kid!” Carl laughed.

“Yeah, there’s a difference between being recognized for personal accomplishments and being fawned over because of who your father is,” Tate said.

“They’ll get over it soon enough. Once they realize what a horrendous asshole you are,” Nicola said with a smirk. Tate chuckled.

“Seriously Tate, I think people will forget soon enough,” Lottie cut in. “Carrington is a small school and it doesn’t take that long before everyone knows everyone. Pretty soon we’ll be talking about the girl who vomited at The Pint or the guy who got maced at O’Mally’s,” she laughed. “But I can understand your reluctance to be pinpointed. I mean, when I started last year all I wanted was to blend in and belong.”

“I can only hope,” Tate smiled.

“I don’t think I have much hope of that. Did you guys hear I’ve been asked to serve as grand marshal in the homecoming parade this year?” Carl asked.

“No!!!” Emmie squealed, her face alight with excitement. She was wearing a teal green tanktop that made her eyes pop and accentuated her deep tan. Her long red hair was pushed over one shoulder. Colin lovingly looked on at her delight, happiness written all over his face. “Congratulations!”

“Congratulations man!” Colin said.

“Yeah congratulations Carl, that’s so exciting,” I echoed.

“Are they paying you?” Nicola asked.

“Uhh, no,” Carl replied, giving her a weird look.

“Bummer.”

The food was delicious, alcohol abundant and conversation stimulating. Carl and Tate regaled us with stories from the Athlete’s Village at that summer’s Olympics. It sounded a bit like the college dorms, but even more debaucherous.

By the time we finished dinner a couple of hours later and left for the bar I was extremely drunk. Tate and I bounced off of each other as we staggered and stumbled down the sidewalk, giggling and grasping at each other for balance. The girls, walking a couple of yards ahead of us, weren’t doing much better and we all fell to the ground with laughter after Lottie tripped over a fire hydrant and only managed to avoid face-planting on the sidewalk by grabbing Emmie and pulling her down with her. Tate roared with laughter and threw an arm around my shoulder, dragging me to the ground with him as he doubled over convulsing with giggles.

The line outside the bar stretched past the neighboring coffee shop and bookstore. Nicola led us right up to Rambo at the door.

“Heya princess!” His voice rumbled out of him in a low, but warm, growl. “How many you got kiddo?”

“I dunno– like a gallon.”

Rambo gave a deep chuckle. “A gallon, huh?”

“A– uh– a bunch,” she said.

“All right, all right,” he said with another laugh.

I stumbled forward, doing my best to project a composed, sober, image. “Seven… seven people. Mister, uh, sir…” I slurred and stuttered. Rambo laughed even harder.

“Oh lordy. Alright kids, head on in,” he laughed, moving out of the way to usher us in the door. Moans and groans erupted from the people on the line.

“Fuck you bitches!” Nicola screamed, throwing both arms up in the air and giving them the finger and cackling with laughter.

The bar was packed with people and we formed a human chain and squeezed our way to the back room, Tate leading me protectively by one arm and Lottie trailing on my other arm. The backroom was a little less crowded and the group of us headed directly to the dance floor. Carl appeared with a tray of drinks, the first of many, and the night disappeared into a sweaty, exhausting haze, as I shook all my problems away for one night and let myself dance into oblivion.

***

I awoke the next morning to Colin’s face, his sinewy arms shaking me awake. The sun was blindingly bright and it was everywhere. It took me a moment to grasp my surroundings before I realized I was on the girls’ couch. Tate slept on the easy chair across from me.

“Time to get up. We’re going to be late for practice,” Colin said.

“Fuck,” I groaned, barely able to hold my eyes open. My head felt disconnected from my body and I nearly toppled over as I tried to sit up. Colin crossed the room to wake Tate. “I’m still drunk,” I announced, suddenly feeling hypnotized by the feeling of their soft leather couch beneath my fingertips. I put my face down to it, relishing its texture, wanting to feel it all over and inhaling the strong leather aroma until I felt slightly lightheaded.

“Yeah, well you had your last drink about two hours ago, so I would say that that is pretty likely,” Colin responded.

I mumbled some kind of unintelligible response that tipped Colin off to the fact that I was drifting off again (while violently petting the couch) and he came over and gave me a few more shakes.

Carl appeared out of Lottie’s room a few minutes later and with his and Tate’s help, they managed to get me up off the sofa. Carl grabbed a load of bread and two gallons of water out of the kitchen and the four of us departed for the Gnat.

I was so exhausted I could barely hold my head up on the walk over, but by the time I had polished off six slices of bread and a half gallon of water I was feeling more like my normal self, but with a bit of a buzz.

Practice was brutal. Timmy seemed to know exactly what the score was as soon as I walked in and he took no mercy on me. I was in enough of a stupor to get through the workout without feeling too much pain but I couldn’t shake the constant feeling that I was going to drown. My lungs didn’t seem to be functioning properly and each lap I swam felt like an experiment in suffocation.

Somehow I managed to get through practice alive and with cookies un-tossed. Tate and Colin were less lucky and I found them camped out in the toilet stalls after I took a quick rinse.

“Hey,” I said, poking my head into Tate’s stall. He was sitting on the floor in his red speedo, his face resting on the toilet seat. “Can I get you anything? Water?” I asked.

“How are you alive right now?” he mumbled.

“I dunno…” I shrugged. “What can I get you?” Tate just moaned. I knocked on the door to Colin’s stall. “Colin, can I get you anything?” I called.

“No,” he mumbled.

“All right,” I replied, looking back in on Tate. “Do you think I can take you home Tate?”

He mumbled his assent and allowed me to help him up off the ground. I didn’t have the energy to help him get dressed so I wrapped a towel around him, figuring that we weren’t likely to run into anyone at 8am on a Saturday, and led him out of the Gnat.

I’m sure we made quite the spectacle walking back to our dorm: the half-naked man and his still-tipsy, slightly off-balanced human crutch, stumbling through the cloisters. We stopped twice so that Tate could vomit.

Getting up the ten flights of stairs up to our room was like climbing Everest and was honestly more of an ordeal than that morning’s practice had been. By the time I got Tate back into our room I thought I might faint from exhaustion. He immediately flopped face-first down onto his bed.

“Wait! Tate! Do you need to puke again before you fall asleep?” I asked, grabbing a garbage bin and putting it next to his bed and arranging him so that he was on his side. He mumbled something incoherent. “Do you want water or food or something?”

“No. I just want to sleep,” he whined.

“You’re still in your suit. You’re going to get a rash! Do you want to change?”

Tate snorted and reached around and pulled his comforter over him, effectively ending that discussion.

I chugged two bottles of water while I went around and closed all the blinds and changed into pajamas, then I climbed into bed and let sleep overtake me.

***

It was close to 4pm when I finally woke up. The room was still dark and the stench of vomit hung heavy in the air. Tate was still breathing steadily, his black curls messily arranged around his face and a slight trail of drool dribbling onto his pillow. He looked ethereally beautiful, even hung over. The trash bin next to his bed was full of vomit and I took it out into the hall to dump in one of the cans out there. I cracked the windows in our room to let some air in and then went into the bathroom to wash my face. I was still exhausted, and my stomach ached with hunger, but I didn’t feel too bad otherwise.

Tate was just rousing himself as I walked back into our room. He sat on the edge of the bed, still dressed only in his speedo, with his head in his hands. He looked up when I entered and ran his hands back through his hair, his biceps bulging in a mouth-watering way. I drank in the sight of his naked torso. Tate groaned.

“Hey,” I said, trying not to stare too obviously. “How are you feeling?”

“Like there are fireworks going off between my eyes,” he mumbled.

“That good, huh?” I replied. “I’ll get you some aspirin,” I said, retreating back into the bathroom and retrieving the bottle. I handed him a couple of tablets and a bottle of water.

“Thanks,” he said. “Did you take out my puke?”

“Yeah.”

“Thank you. You didn’t have to do that. I would have done it.”

“It’s no big deal. Trust me I’ve had to deal with worse. At least you managed to get everything into the proper receptacle,” I laughed.

Tate chuckled and then groaned with pain and clutched his forehead. “I can’t believe how bad I feel right now,” he said, his raspy voice little more than a whisper. He gazed at me with bleary, bloodshot eyes that looked miserable and pained.

“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can get you?” I asked. “I can’t believe you feel this bad. You seemed okay this morning. Better than me.”

“Yeah, I was still drunk when we left for practice. Timmy cured me of that pretty quick,” he said ruefully. “I think I just need to eat something.”

“Do you want to go get food?” I asked.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind showering first though. The smell of chlorine is making me nauseous and I think it’s making me cross-eyed.”

“We could order a pizza,” I said. “That way you don’t have to go outside.”

“Fresh air might help,” Tate said with a shrug.

“Sunlight might blind you,” I rebutted.

“Point taken,” Tate said. “Pizza it is.”

Tate went in to take his shower and I placed our order and then called home to have a catch-up chat with my dad for a few minutes. He was always glad to hear from me, but calling him wasn’t the time investment that calling my mom was. He liked hearing all the swimming gossip and was bursting with pride to hear that I was one of the two freshmen promoted to Timmy’s practice group. He asked me a few questions about the Tate and Skip swap, but he didn’t seem at all suspicious about anything. He was excited to see me in a couple of weeks and told me to behave myself before letting me go.

Tate emerged from the bathroom a couple of minutes later in a large t-shirt and pajama pants.

“Damn, it kinda reeks in here,” he said, wrinkling his nose in disgust as he sniffed the air. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine. We can air it out and the Febreeze is around here somewhere,” I said, glancing around haphazardly looking for the blue canister. Tate went over to the windows and cracked them open. “How are you feeling now?” I asked.

“A little more human,” he said. “The aspirin is kicking in, I just feel really polluted and discombobulated.”

I nodded my understanding. Tate sat down at his desk and booted up his computer to check his email. The blue light of the screen reflected off his jet-black hair and gave his marble skin a luminous glow. I watched him contemplatively from my seat on my bed.

It was hard for me to process all the feelings that I had towards him or to fathom the fact that he had only really come into my life a week ago. Already I felt as though we had weathered so much together and forged some kind of partnership against the world around us. My heart swelled with all types of feelings as I looked at him and I couldn’t keep a smile from creeping onto my face.

At the same time, the intensity of my feelings scared me. I had already been burned once by Skip because I was too free with my affections and didn’t take the proper precautions to protect myself. I mean, sure, Tate was gay, but he hadn’t done anything that expressed more than a platonic interest in me. ‘Emotional walls, Braeden,’ I told myself. Still, I couldn’t deny the urges I had to wrap myself around Tate and never let go or the fantasies that danced through my brain of the two of us entwined.

The chirp of my cell phone announced the pizza’s arrival and broke my contemplative trance. I ran down to the lobby to pick it up.

“I have an email from Elise!” Tate beamed when I returned to the room.

“Oh great! How is she doing?” I asked, putting the box down in the middle of my bed and taking a seat up by my pillow. Tate climbed onto the foot of my bed.

“Good!” he chirped, eagerly grabbing a slice and digging in with a ferocious voracity. He was clearly hungry. “She is hooking up with a Duke,” he continued, between bites. “They are vacationing in Monaco at the moment,” he smirked, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “Typical Elise. She can’t wait to meet you in a couple of weeks.”

“Oh,” I replied, intrigued about what Tate had told his sister about me. “I am excited to meet her too. She sounds really fun!”

“She is!” he replied eagerly.

“And I’m interested to meet the girl who managed to get Nicola to give up closet space. She is probably the first and only person to put Nicola in her place.”

Tate laughed. “Probably true. She’ll love you,” Tate said with an affectionate smile.

“How do you know?” I asked, suddenly feeling like we were heading into deep water. Butterflies exploded in my stomach.

“How could she not?” Tate blurted, before he seemed to catch himself. He looked thoughtful for a moment, his brow contracted into an adorable furrow and his teeth dug into his lower lip. “You have been a great friend to me Braeden, since before we even knew each other. I am still blown away by what you did that day with Drake! I mean, you drastically changed your life for the sake of somebody you barely knew just because you thought it was the right thing to do. I think it’s the most courageous thing I’ve ever heard. And now that I know you, I know that you’re just about the most caring person ever. I mean, look at how you took care of me today.” He stared into my eyes, his face heartbreakingly open and honest.

“Tate, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that if the shoe had been on the other foot you would have done the exact same thing for me. You may be willing to put up with a lot of shit yourself but I know that you would go to town for the people that you lo– uhh… care about,” I caught myself. Tate gave me an odd look. ‘Fuck. Did he notice?’ I wondered to myself, suddenly feeling painfully exposed.

He was silent for a long moment. “I do, you know,” he finally said, his voice barely above a whisper. His eyes dropped to study his fingers, nervously fiddling with the edge of the pizza box.

His words knocked the wind out of me. A thousand thoughts rushed through my head. Did he really just say that? What did it mean? Did he just say he loved me? Could this really be happening to me? Was I reading too far into this? Did I misunderstand him?

“Y-you do?” I gasped in disbelief, barely able to force the words out.

“Yeah,” he whispered, raising his eyes to meet mine. They were filled with tears and he gave me a tentative smile.

Somehow I just couldn’t process, couldn’t believe what he was saying to me. I stared at him in shock.

“You do?” I asked again. Tears bleared my vision and one escaped down my cheek.

“Yeah,” he choked.

“What?” I breathed, still trying to make sense of what he was saying. I so desperately wanted to believe it and yet somehow I just couldn’t let myself.

He reached his right arm out and rested his hand softly on my face. “I do…” he said, leaning in to look me in the eyes, his thumb lightly stroking my cheek, “…love you.” And with that he leaned in slowly, his eyes locked on mine and planted a delicate, feather-light kiss on my lips. He pulled back and looked at me for a moment, his eyes wild with what must have been fear and excitement and adrenaline, then he slid his hand to the back of my neck and kissed me again, this time more forcefully. His mouth felt soft and rough against mine and I drank in his clean masculine smell, savoring the feeling of his touch.

He pulled back slowly and sighed. “Braeden, I-I knew you were the one the first time I saw you at Nicola and Emmie’s party. And everything you’ve said or done over the last few weeks has only reaffirmed that for me. You are the most incredible person I’ve ever met and I don’t think you even realize the effect that you have on people. You bring so many people so much happiness and you’re so loving and so willing to give of yourself to others. Brae, you are the most beautiful person I have ever met. Inside and out.” He shuddered slightly. “And now that I’m saying all this out loud I’m basically terrified.”

“Tate,” I said, still finding speaking a precarious endeavor, like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. His hand still rested on the back of my head with his fingers coiled in my hair. I could feel the pulse in his wrist against my neck and I felt a sort of oneness with him that made my heart want to break. “I-I don’t know what to say…I… You… You don’t know how long I have wanted to hear you say those things. Well, actually, I guess not that long.”

He gave a breathy laugh and pulled my lips to his once again, this time probing at my lips with his tongue. They parted willingly to grant him entry. His tongue was in my mouth and I was overwhelmed by the sensations. I reached my arms up around his shoulders to grasp his back, his head, his hair, his shirt, anything and everything. All I knew in that moment was that I wanted more of him. I just wanted to be closer to him. He pushed the pizza box off the bed with his left hand and bridged the space between us, using my free arm to pull me to him so that suddenly his torso was against mine. I could feel his abdomen contracting with each gasping breath he took as our tongues continued to duel furiously.

“Oh Brae,” he murmured, his breath softly caressing my lips. He began kissing a trail along my jaw, his slight stubble erotically tickling my skin. I threw my head back and moaned with pleasure. Tate blew softly against my ear and then nibbled on the lobe, sending shivers up my spine. Meanwhile, his hands had found their way up my shirt and were exploring my torso, one hand roving across my back and the other massaging my firm pectoral muscles and my erect nipples. He pulled back for a moment and reached for the hem of my shirt and I was suddenly seized by an overwhelming feeling of panic. I didn’t know what I was doing! I had absolutely no idea and Tate seemed so confident and experienced. What if I messed up or if I wasn’t good enough? What if I couldn’t pleasure him? What if I embarrassed myself?

“Umm, Tate,” I said, grabbing his hands and stopping them before he could start undressing me. “I, uhh, I’ve never done this before… And, I don’t really know what I’m doing. And I really like it, but it feels a little…fast… but I like it a lot.”

Tate looked at me dreamily, his beautiful face only inches from mine. His eyes were slightly glazed, his cheeks flushed and his lips wet and puffy from kissing. “Sorry,” he said with a throaty laugh. “You’re right. I guess I just got a little bit carried away.” He smoothed my shirt back down and then wrapped me into a firm hug and planted another peck on my lips. “I just didn’t think this would ever happen,” he cooed, kissing me again, and again.

“You didn’t?” I asked, looking deep into his eyes, my hands playing with his lush black curls. He shook his head. “Why not?” I asked, leaning in to plant a kiss on the tip of his small Greek nose.

He sighed. “I don’t know, I guess I just never thought that you could possibly have the feelings for me that I have for you. And after everything that happened with Drake, I figured you probably held some resentment towards me, at least subconsciously.”

“I’m sorry if I made you feel like that–” I started.

“–You didn’t! You didn’t,” he interrupted. “You really have been wonderful about everything. I don’t know why I thought that. I guess that, in a way, feeling as though there was some tangible obstacle to prevent our being together made me feel better about the fact that I was sure it would never happen.”

“And now?” I asked.

“And now I couldn’t be happier,” he grinned and gave me another soft peck on the lips.

“Me neither,” I said softly, resting my forehead against his, the tips of our noses touching. We just sat there in silence for a long time, staring into each other’s eyes, kissing, smiling with happiness and disbelief. It felt so incredible to be close to someone and to feel a sense of connection to another person. I could have sat there with my arms and legs wrapped around him forever.

Eventually, he slowly reclined me back against the bed, his lips locked on mine and my legs still wrapped around him. His body rested gently on top of mine and he slowly began grinding his groin against mine. Through our shorts I could feel the hard outline of his erection pressed against mine, grinding more and more urgently as the heat of our passion increased. I returned his kisses fervently, frantically drinking in the taste of him, pulling him closer against me and bucking my hips up against him. I had never been so aroused in my life and I felt as though my cock might tear through the thin netting of my shorts. As Tate stimulated my equipment with forceful, rhythmic strokes of his own, I felt myself start leaking profusely.

Our breathing became ragged and Tate and I were soon gasping for breath. My hands found their way to his firm buttocks, kneading his ample glutes and pulling his groin into mine more forcefully. The stimulation was becoming too much to handle and I felt the tingling deep in my loins that signaled an approaching orgasm.

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

“Me too,” he grunted.

A few more thrusts and my orgasm hit so intensely that it shut down my other senses. Tate joined me just moments later, wailing in ecstasy before he collapsed on top of me with his face buried in the crook of my neck. I could feel his heart thundering in his chest; his hot, gasping breaths against my neck and his twitching cock against my groin. We lay there in breathless silence, enjoying the feeling of each other’s bodies, before drifting off into a serene sleep.

***

When I awoke the next morning, it was with Tate’s muscular arm draped across my chest, his chest against my back and his erection pressed against the crack of my ass. Nothing had ever felt so right. I turned my head to look back at him and found his spectacular blue eyes staring back at me softly.

“Morning,” he said softly, unable to suppress a smile.

I grinned back. “Good morning,” I replied.

“Happy?” he asked. I nodded my head eagerly and he chuckled. “Me too,” he responded, leaning in and kissing me gently on the lips. I rolled around completely to face him, wrapped an arm around his neck and kissed him back hard. He giggled. “Don’t you want me to shave?” he asked pulling back. A considerable shadow had appeared on his porcelain skin, the small dark hairs easily discernable. I shook my head no and he grinned. “All right, you asked for it then,” he said, wrapping his leg around me, pulling me to him and kissing me fiercely. I returned the kiss as best as I knew how, massaging his tongue with mine and trying to pull him closer to me. My experience with Rhett was minimal, at best, and I hoped that I was performing up to Tate’s expectations.

Tate’s hands found their way up under my shirt, stroking and caressing my back and my chest. He pulled back and slowly raised the hem of my shirt, looking at me to make sure that it was alright. I nodded and he pulled the shirt off entirely, leaving my torso exposed.

“You too!” I said, eagerly grabbing at his shirt. He helped me to raise it over his shoulders and off of him. Tate’s muscular torso was a sight to behold. His delts and pecs were massive yet his torso tapered to an impossibly tiny waste, complimented by his washboard abs.

Instinctively, I grabbed at the waist of his shorts, pausing for a second to look up for his approval. He smiled down at me and kissed me on the forehead. As I slowly lowered the waistband of Tate’s shorts, drawing its slowly along the length of Tate’s turgid equipment, I realized that I had never seen Tate naked before. In fact, I’d barely even allowed myself to look at his body at all at practice or in the showers. His cock snapped up against his abs when freed from his shorts and I took in the sight of it with awe. His erection stretched around 7 inches and it was quite a fistful, almost dauntingly thick, but the greatest surprise was the hood of foreskin that partially covered its pink head.

“Oh!” I gasped, as though I was suddenly surprised to see Tate’s boner in front of me.

“Okay?” Tate asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, “it’s beautiful.” I blushed a little with embarrassment. ‘Fuck, you sound like a total idiot Braeden,’ I thought to myself. But Tate laughed and kissed me warmly on the lips, his hands resting on my hips for a moment before sliding down to the top of my shorts.

“Can I?” he asked, biting his lip mischievously and looking down at my tented shorts. I nodded shyly that he could, suddenly getting a rush of butterflies in my stomach. He eased my shorts down, exposing my throbbing erection and helped me to climb out of them. Precum dribbled from my piss slit and Tate looked down at it with lust. With his large hand, he caught my precum and began using it to lubricate his own cock, which seemed to swell further with excitement. Then he looked at me hesitantly for a moment before pushing his hips forward so that the head of his cock touched mine. He humped slightly so that our shafts lined up and then wrapped his powerful hand around both of our members.

I threw my head back and gasped. His hand felt so different from mine or Rhett’s; it was on a whole other level. His skin was rough and soft and hot all at once, and the velvety hardness of his cock pressed against mine was almost too much to handle. I could feel my precum flowing more rapidly and Tate kept scooping it up to use as lube. He leaned in and kissed me again, darting his tongue in and out my mouth and sucking on my tongue. “Lay down,” he cooed, his spare hand finding its way to the small of my back, helping to gently lower me against the bed.

Like the night before, Tate began gently grinding his groin into mine, except now we were unencumbered by the layers of clothing we’d had on the previous evening. His groin and cock were pressed tightly against mine. I wrapped my legs around him, pulling him closer. The light coat of hair springing up from his pubes tickled against my cock and lower abs. We kissed furiously and I ran my fingers through his silky hair and across the soft skin of his back, feeling his muscles contracting as he ground his crotch against mine.

Soon we were both gasping for breath, manically bucking our hips together and savoring the sensations of having our bodies pressed together. His cock felt so good against mine and it felt as though fireworks were firing off in my brain as he ground his rigid shaft against mine. They were about the same length (though his was much thicker) so they lined up nicely. I felt my orgasm rising from my loins and squeezed my legs around him harder and dug my fingers into his back.

Tate seemed to understand and humped against me harder, massaging the length of my cock with his. “Oh fuck!” I moaned as I climaxed, spewing shot after shot of hot semen between us. Tate kept plowing away, grinding his dick into the small puddles of cum around my groin, enjoying the feeling of the hot liquid against his member. He came a moment later with a loud moan, dropping onto me and squeezing me tightly. He bit lightly into my shoulder, gasping for air, as he humped against me a few more times. As we lay there for a few minutes recovering Tate planted occasional small kisses on my neck.

Tate’s stomach gurgled and he rolled off of me with a laugh. “I’m starving!” he groaned, stretching out his arms and legs as his deflated cock lay limp on his flat stomach.

“Should we go get something?” I asked, taking the opportunity to stretch myself. The dried semen on my stomach cracked as I stretched, pulling on my pubic hairs. “Owww,” I laughed, trying to scratch away the dried remnants of our love making. Tate laughed and gave my dick an affectionate squeeze.

“It’s even better than I imagined,” he said, smiling at me.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said rolling my eyes and sitting up on the bed. I felt a little stiff from having shared the twin bed.

“No, I’m serious,” he said, wrapping a burly arm around my waste and pulling me back against him. “It’s perfect,” he said, planting a light kiss on my back between my shoulder blades. “You’re perfect.” His stomach growled again.

“And you’re hungry,” I said with a laugh. I tried to slide off the bed but Tate pulled me back again and hugged me against his chest and rested his head on my chin.

“Let’s just sit here for a few minutes,” he said, resting his head against mine. “This is just perfect. You don’t know how long I’ve wanted this.”

I leaned back and let myself relax against him. I felt as though I was melting into him. “I’m so happy,” I sighed.

“Me too,” he replied, I could hear the grin in his voice. He nibbled playfully on my ear.

We got up and dressed a few minutes later and headed down to the dining hall for breakfast.

***

As we stood on the food line it was hard for me to resist reaching out and touching Tate. I drank in the sight of him in his tight tank top that accentuated his muscular build and his pajama pants that hung loosely off of his bubble butt. His curly black hair looked sexily disheveled and he absent-mindedly ran his hand through it while waiting by the waffle maker. He turned back and caught me staring at him and flashed me a brilliant smile, displaying his perfect white teeth. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that that smile was for me and that Tate felt the same way for me as I did for him. It was surreal.

We sat at our table like a couple of fools, silently staring at each other, smiling bashfully and picking at our food. I wanted nothing more than to reach across the table and kiss him.

Immediately after we finished eating we went back up to the room. The sexual tension was palpable as we raced up the ten flights of stairs to the fifth floor, our pace increasing with each one.

As soon as we were in the door, Tate swept me into his arms and his mouth found mine. His hand wandered down to the throbbing erection I’d been sporting since our silent breakfast table flirtation. “Ready for a repeat of this morning’s exercises?” he asked with a fiendish grin.

I nodded. “This is much better than anything Timmy has us doing,” I said as Tate led me to his bed, pulling my t-shirt off as we walked. He playfully picked me up and threw me onto his bed and then dove on top of me, his mouth immediately seeking out mine and kissing it roughly.

***

My cell phone rang as we lay in bed afterwards, resting up for another round. I reluctantly pulled myself out of Tate’s arms and he playfully tried to hold me back. Tate was a lot more playful, outgoing and even aggressive than I would have expected. He seemed to have shed his formerly reserved self overnight and it made me feel special that he trusted me enough to let me in fully. I recovered my phone from its charger on my desk. “It’s Emmie,” I said after inspecting the LCD screen.

“You know she’ll just keep trying, so may as well answer it,” Tate said from the bed where he was lounging seductively. I was practically hypnotized by the sight of his muscular body and his ruggedly beautiful face.

“Hey Emmie.”

“Hey Brae! How’s it going?”

“Umm… pretty good,” I replied, taking another look at Tate’s naked form on the bed. He winked at me.

“We’re going to the beach. You have to come! We’re leaving in a half hour.”

“Oh… um… I dunno.”

“I’m driving. You have to come.”

“Yeah… I’m not sure…”

“Pick you up in half an hour!” she chirped. “Tate too, obvi!”

“Uhh–”

Emmie had already hung up.

“Emmie wants to go to the beach,” I said turning back towards Tate and climbing onto the bed. I crawled over him and planted a kiss on his lips.

“So tell her that we’re busy,” he grinned, raising his eyebrows and reaching up to grope my ass. He pulled my groin down against his and ground against me.

I giggled. “Yeah… it was non-negotiable. They are picking us up in 30.”

“Oh. I’d sorta hoped we’d stay in bed all day,” he pouted.

“Me too,” I said.

“Well we still have 30 minutes.”

“What’d you have in mind?” I asked, grinding my growing erection against his.

“Actually,” he said, reaching out and grabbing my cock, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to try…” I gave him a curious look. “Lie down,” he said, lifting me off of him. He scooted down the bed, straddled my legs and grabbed the base of my cock. He looked at me with a grin, slid back so he was on all fours and then leaned forward and cautiously licked the head of my cock. I moaned with pleasure and he looked up at me and smiled. He lapped at the head again, twirling his tongue around it and tickling the piss slit. I groaned and bucked my hips slightly.

“You like that?” he teased, looking up into my eyes.

“Yeah,” I moaned.

“How do you like this?” he asked, taking the whole head of my mouth into his mouth. I lolled my head back and nearly shouted with pleasure, enjoying the feeling of his warm, moist mouth enveloping my cock. He teased the head with his tongue, driving me wild with pleasure. I gasped and moaned and shrieked with pleasure, massaging my pecs and tweaking my nipples. Tate’s free hand tugged at my balls and massaged the sensitive area around my cherry. He looked up at me with his large blue eyes and slowly began working his mouth down my cock, inch by inch.

“Oh yes!” I gasped, my back arching with pleasure.

Tate dutifully worked on my dick, swallowing the shaft nearly down to its base. I was overcome by the sensations and knew that I wouldn’t last long. Tate pulled his mouth off and began tonguing the head before swallowing it back down again. I kept moaning as he kept working on my equipment, gasping with ecstasy. My balls began to tighten and I felt my orgasm rising from deep within my loins. “I’m gunna cum,” I groaned, looking down at my cock sliding in and out of Tate’s mouth.

He looked up and me and pulled his mouth off and began rhythmically jacking my cock. He gave it a few quick strokes and I was there. “Yes!” I whooped, bucking wildly, as rope after rope of jizz exploded from my throbbing cock. Tate lapped at the pools of cum that had accumulated of my abdomen and licked his lips with a smile. I laughed breathlessly, still coming down from what had been the most intense, toe-curling orgasm of my life. Tate came up and started planting sticky kisses on my face as I panted for breath. “Stop!” I giggled, “Now I’m going to have to wash my face before we see the girls. How long do we have?” I asked.

Tate looked up over at the clock on his bedside table. “About ten minutes.”

“Ughhhh,” I groaned. “I guess we should get up.”

“I’m going to go clean up,” Tate said, climbing off of me.

“Wait,” I said, grabbing his hand, lacing his fingers in mine and pulling him back down on top of me.

“What?” he asked, smiling down at me.

“What are we going to tell the girls?” I paused. “About us…”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, are we going to tell them that we’re… you know…”

“That we’re what?” he asked coyly.

“You know… together…”

“We’re what?!” he guffawed. “Woah! Don’t go getting all clingy on me now,” he said pulling away from me and raising his arms in nonchalance. “I think you’re reading into things a little too much.”

My stomach dropped and I suddenly felt like I might vomit. “Wh-what?!” I stuttered, staggering backwards slightly. Was this really happening to me? How could I have been so stupid? My mind ran a million miles a second. ‘But- but, he said…’

Suddenly his strong arms were wrapped around me again and he pulled me into the cleft of his shoulder. “I’m kidding! I’m kidding Brae! Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!”

“You douche!” I exclaimed, my heart still racing.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said, stroking the back of my head and kissing my neck. “I would love nothing more than to tell the girls that we’re together.” He pulled back and gave me a blinding smile. “I want to tell everyone and anyone,” he said, planting a light peck on my lips.

“Do you really think we should?” I asked, doubts creeping in. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs. ‘What if it doesn’t work between us? What if it changes things? What if the guys on the team find out? Is being together just going to make life more difficult for us?’ I bit my lip. “What if the guys from the team find out?” I asked.

“It’s not like the girls would tell them. Besides, who cares if they do know? I’m sure half of them assume it already since we’re roommates.”

“Exactly! Do we really want to validate speculation based on stereotypes?” I asked.

“But, we are together now. So, who cares?” he replied.

“I don’t want them to know,” I said firmly. “I feel like they’ll make our lives difficult. The last thing I need right now is Drake breathing down my neck about my sex life.”

“Okay… so they don’t have to know,” Tate said. “But I don’t see what that has to do with the girls.”

“Please! You know that once Emmie gets wind of this it isn’t going to remain a secret for long. She can’t help it. If they know, people will find out.”

“So? Is that the worst thing in the world? Are you ashamed or something?” Tate asked, his voice rising in irritation.

“No! I’m not. It’s just a lot to handle right now. I dunno… Please don’t be angry with me,” I said.

“I’m not angry,” he whispered soothingly, reaching a hand out to stroke my cheek. “Look, we don’t need to say anything today. We can figure it out together.”

“Thank you,” I replied.

***

“Yo. You guys are in the back with Lottie,” Nicola said as we climbed into Emmie’s Range Rover.

“Hey,” Carl said as we climbed over him to get to the back.

“Hi,” I replied. “Hey Emmie, hey Colin,” I said, casting a glance back at the front seats.

“Oh my god! You guys smell like sex! You did it!” Nicola squealed in a tone that I normally would have associated with Emmie.

I froze in shock. I could feel the blood rushing into my face.

“What?!” Emmie shrieked. “You guys had sex?!”

“Tell us everything! Who’s the top?” Nicola said.

“Are you using protection?” Emmie asked.

I looked at Lottie helplessly.

“Enough!” Lottie announced. “Leave them alone! Guys ignore them.”

Nicola and Emmie groaned. Carl and Colin looked as though they were just trying to process what was happening. Tate and I took a seat on either side of Lottie. Nicola and Emmie stared back at us.

“Uhh… drive!” Lottie ordered.

We drove in awkward silence. Nobody seemed to know what to say. Nicola, Colin and Carl kept looking back at Tate and me, seemingly studying us.

“Okay, fine, we’re together. So everyone can stop being so awkward,” I said, breaking the silence.

“I knew it!” Nicola gloated.

“Yes!” Emmie cheered. “This is so perfect!”

“That’s great guys! I’m really happy for you,” Colin said, looking back and giving us a warm smile.

“Yeah, uhh, ditto.” Carl said.

“Thanks,” Tate said softly.

“So, give us the details. So who’s the top?” Nicola asked eagerly.

Lottie looked at Nicola in disgust. “Nicola!” she chastised.

“We don’t ask you guys about your sex lives,” Tate said.

“Although some of you are more than willing to volunteer it,” I chimed in, looking at Nicola.

“So you don’t get to ask about ours,” Tate continued.

“And for the record we haven’t done that yet,” I finished.

“Uhh… yeah,” Tate echoed.

“Fair enough,” Emmie said, although Nicola groaned her disappointment. “So when did this happen?”

“Just yesterday,” Tate answered.

“How? Details! Tell us everything!”

Tate looked at me and rolled his eyes. “You wanna take this or should I?” he laughed.

“It’s all you.”

“Alright, it isn’t much of a story really. Brae was just taking care of me yesterday, like the champ that he is, and we got to talking and we realized that we felt the same way about each other, and then we acted on it.” he said.

“That’s it?” Nicola said, disappointed.

“That’s it.”

Nicola looked at me and I nodded.

“Oh boo. You guys are no fun,” she whined.

“Whatever! I called this from day one. The second I met Brae, I said he’d be perfect for you Tate!” Emmie said triumphantly. “I knew this would happen! Lottie wouldn’t let me meddle, but you can’t stop destiny. I am telling you, I am a master matchmaker!”

“Emmie, stuff it,” Lottie decreed from the back seat. Her word seemed to be law on this car trip and I was incredibly relieved that Emmie and Nicola were listening to her.

***

The gang bounced back from the surprise of our announcement by the time we got to the lake and a sense of normalcy was quickly re-established. Although it was still a summer day, hints of fall were already surfacing. The lake was noticeably chillier from the cool evening temps and some of the leaves were beginning to turn brilliant shades of yellow. It was a leisurely afternoon and, as much as I thought I would have liked to have spent it in bed with Tate, I ended up really enjoying myself. Tate and I had brought along our Brit Lit reading and we lounged on the raft with the others reading and gossiping.

Emmie brought along a badminton set and we played three-on-three (boys against girls) matches while Carl drove into town to pick up lunch from one of his favorite spots. While we had the raw power working in our favor, the girls were quick and had impeccable technique and easily trounced us. That said, Emmie and Nicola really got into the competitive spirit and were at each others’ throats over every error. It was a different side of Emmie, one that surprised me and seemed to surprise Colin a lot as well.

“Beat you!” Emmie said jovially, throwing her arms around Colin’s neck and kissing him affectionately. “We need to work on your serves. Otherwise I’m going to need to find someone else to be my partner for the Kappa badminton tourney.”

“You are a trip!” Colin laughed, squeezing her shoulder.

“No. I’m serious. I’ll take Brae over you unless I see some improvement,” she retorted. “I am not losing to Nicola!” she muttered, aside.

Carl brought lunch shortly thereafter and we agreed to pursue less competitive activities for the rest of the afternoon.

Tate and I opted to hang on the beach while everyone else went for a swim after lunch. I was still trying to figure out what exactly my comfort zone was as far as PDA was concerned. Even with our closest friends, I felt awkward about being too physical with Tate. I didn’t think any of them would have a problem with it in the least, especially not the girls, but a nagging feeling held me back.

I stretched out, enjoying the warm feeling of the sand against my skin, the fine grains molding around the form of my body and pressing into my skin. The sky was cloudless and the sun shone down with intensity. Tate came and laid down perpendicularly to me, resting his head on my stomach. He grabbed my nearest hand with his and laced his fingers through mine. I felt a palpable jolt of electricity in my groin and my cock threatened to spring to arousal. I had to roll my eyes at my own horniness. We laid there for a long while in contented silence until Tate finally broke it.

“It’s beautiful here,” he sighed.

“Yeah,” I agreed, reaching down and stroking his hair. I loved the soft, silky feeling of his curls.

He turned his head to look up at me and I felt the line of his stubble along his strong jaw line pressed against my stomach. “So how much do you wish we were at home, naked, right now?”

I laughed and playfully batted his head away from me and twisted away from him, dropping his head off of my stomach.

“Hey! You got sand in my hair!” he laughed, rolling over and grabbing my shoulders to pin me to the ground. He climbed over me, straddling me, and locked his shockingly blue eyes on mine. He was now sitting directly on top of my cock, which was speedily becoming erect. He ground his hips slightly.

“Don’t!” I warned. “Not here.”

He gave me a mischievous smile and ground his hips again for good measure, then leaned down and left a soft but lingering kiss on my lips before he rolled off of me.

“You’re no fun!” he whined, turning his head to look at me.

“And you are a bad influence!” I stuck out my tongue at him and he quickly leaned in and licked it with his own, before jumping to his feet and taking off at full speed for the lake. “Oh! You are so dead!” I shouted springing to my feet and chasing after him, tackling and dunking him forcefully when I got in the water.

 

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