Hey everyone. RichardAdams here. I know I just did one of these, but I'm going to need to take another two weeks break from posting on the site and from writing. The projects and assignments are piling up for me and I need that to be my number one priority at the moment, not my writings. I hope you all can understand this decision.

Also, I'm here to announce what story choice is in the lead for what's going to come after the 'Am I...?' series ends. Those without any votes yet will not be put in the standings here. Only those with votes will be shown. There are several ties as well.

1. Superheroes/Superpowers

2. Cops, Fantasy

3. Dystopia, Authoritarian, Hospital, Sports, Rags to Riches.

Those are the current standings. If there is a story that you want me to write, the options are in Chapter 17 of 'Could I Be...?' Everyone gets one vote and I'll announce the winner on January 4th of 2014. There are eight weeks left in the voting period, so make a choice if there's something you want to read.

Thank you all for your wonderful support, helpful tips, and constructive criticism some of you have given me. I hope you all enjoy Chapter 19 of 'Could I Be...?'

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Chapter 19

The team is together again and I couldn't be happier about it. The next few weeks go by amazingly, despite us losing our first game to UCLA 1-2. It's May now and the end of the school year is coming up in a month. Zane and I are starting to wonder what we're going to do when the school year ends and how we're going to stay close being more than two thousand miles apart.

It's a Friday evening and I'm standing in the batter's box with my bat tight in my hands. We're playing Arizona State tonight and right now we're ahead 2-0. I'm staring down the pitcher and I can see him returning my hard stare with one of his own. My eyes quickly shift around the field, seeing everything I can.

Jack's standing on second base, ready to run, and Peter's on first, having just been walked. Jack came back to play about a week and a half ago, feeling incredibly stiff from not playing for almost three weeks. He's made a full recovery from the stabbing and, while still learning to adjust to swinging the bat differently, his catching is still spot on.

My foot kicks into the dirt and I take in a deep breath. "Dude, you look like you're ready to kill someone."

I look down behind me and see Travis crouched down in his full catcher's uniform. Through the mask, I can see a sly grin on his face, and I roll my eyes. "Shut up, Travis," I say, laughing a bit.

"So how're things going with Zane?"

"Pretty good. We're trying to figure out how we're going to stay close when we're apart for the summer, but we're coming up with a few ideas."

"That's good to hear. Heads up."

The ball flies right past me and lands in Travis' glove. "Strike!" the umpire calls.

"Damn you, Travis," I say.

He innocently smiles and tosses the ball back to the pitcher. "Just be careful with a long distance relationship," Travis says. "Remember Anna? After she moved from Seattle to Detroit, she and tried to keep dating, but we broke up after a month and a half because it was too hard."

"That's what I'm afraid of. Zane and I have promised to video chat every night and to text each other every day, but we're scared it might not be enough."

"Have you thought of maybe visiting each other?"

"Yeah, we thought of that, but we also want to spend time with our parents during the summer, so we'd only be able to be with each other for maybe a week or two."

"Sounds like you have it rough. Coming at you."

The ball passes me again and the thump of the ball hitting leather fills my ears. "Strike!" the umpire yells again.

"Pay more attention, Eric," Travis tells me.

"Shut up."

He tosses the ball back to the pitcher and looks back up at me. "So what're you going to do?"

"We're still not sure, but we know we're going to figure it out together. We're not going to break up just because we're not together. We'll figure it out somehow. Oh, and Travis?"

"Yeah?"

"I let those two balls go by me."

My foot slams down and my body rotates forward. My bat connects with the ball and the sweet crack resonates throughout the stadium. The ball flies deep into the outfield at a great rate of speed and I toss my bat into the foul zone and sprint for first. The ball lands just short of the fence and the outfielders scramble to get it.

Jack reaches home and Paul isn't far behind him. As I round second, I see the center fielder get the ball and he throws it as hard as he can toward the second baseman. I round third and I see home plate in sight. In my peripheral, the second baseman catches the ball and turns on his heel and hurls it toward Travis.

I'm about halfway to home when Travis catches the ball and turns toward me, ready for me to charge into him, but I have a different plan in mind. Travis' bad habit of moving off home plate shows and he's standing a solid six feet to the left of home. So I dig my feet into the dirt and jump with all my might.

The ground gets away from me and everything seems to slow down. I look down and see myself flying over Travis, who seems to be in a state of shock at me jumping over him. Time quickly speeds back up and home plate rapidly approaches. Unfortunately for me, I jumped too hard and I'm going to overshoot the plate.

So I splay out my body and reach back behind me. My body hits the dirt with a hard slam and I feel my hand smack down on home plate. "Safe!" the umpire yells.

Taking a second to get wind back into my lungs, I rise back to my feet and find Travis grinning at me. "Brandon told me you still got it," he says. "You really do."

He holds out his hand I give him a solid high-five. "Thanks, Travis. Try to remember to stay on home plate so I can't do that again in the future."

"I will. And good luck with Zane."

He gives me a pat on the back and I grab my bat and jog back to the dugout, where I'm welcomed by my teammates.

----------------

The rest of the game goes well, with us winning 6-0. We thank ASU for a good game and hit the showers. As I'm getting dressed, Charles appears by my side. "Good game, Eric," he says.

"Thanks, Charles," I say.

"And I'm not the only one that agrees with me. There are some people here to see you."

I look past Charles and see two men who appear to be in their early thirties, one black and one white, walk from behind the corner, both of them wearing nice suits. They see me, smile, and walk over to me. "It's nice to finally meet you, Eric," says the black man, extending his hand.

"Do I know you?" I ask, shaking both of their hands.

"No, but we know you," says the white man. "My name is Robert Sheldon and this is Adrian Demos. Could we please speak to you in private?"

I glance over at Charles. "You could use my office," he says. "I'll make sure no one comes in."

"That would be great," says Adrian.

Charles walks us over to his office and opens the door for us and closes it behind us. "What can I help you two with?" I ask.

Both men reach into their pockets and pull out two small rectangular slips of paper and hand them to me. I see that they're business cards. "Allow us to fully introduce ourselves," says Adrian. "Robert and I are co-heads of the recruitment team for the San Francisco Giants. We've come here to personally offer you a position with the Giants for next season."

My heart stops beating for at least ten seconds. Is this really happening right now? Am I actually being offered a spot on a professional baseball team? "A-Are you serious?" I ask.

"Completely," says Robert. "Dozens of teams from around the country have their eye on you, and it looks like we got to you first. Eric, you're probably the best collegiate baseball player in the country at the moment, and the Giants feel that we would be lucky to have you on our team."

"B-But don't you guys know that I'm...?"

"Eric, the whole country knows about your sexuality and baseball teams still want you in their ranks," Robert continues. "The world is changing and more and more people are coming out in professional sport environments."

"You being gay has not affected us in anyway, and we know it won't if you choose to join the Giants," says Robert.

Feeling the power being sucked out of my legs, I quickly take a seat. "T-This is actually happening right now, isn't it?" I breathe out.

"Yes, it is," says Adrian. "We feel that you would be a great asset to the Giants. You have the fastest throw of any college player, have struck out a record number of players, and have a fantastic batting average, well above the normal player."

"To go with that, we saw tonight that you are a great sportsman with a good head on your shoulders," says Robert. "You have fun on the field, you respect your opponents, and you bring out the best in your teammates. If you bring that to the Giants, we would be unstoppable."

"Here's a contract." Adrian reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a folded piece of paper and hands it to me. "It says that if you choose to join the Giants, you would be put on the team and start training for next season immediately."

I take a quick look over the contract before looking back at the two men. "If I say yes, and I'm not saying I am, would I still be able to attend Stanford?"

Robert and Adrian glance at one another before looking back to me. "Here's the thing, Eric," says Robert. "The training schedule for the Giants is very rigorous and time consuming. It's a full-time job, actually. You probably wouldn't have time to attend classes and work on assignments if you joined."

"So you're saying..." I start to ask.

"Yes. You would have to leave Stanford to join the team."

This dream come true is quickly turning into a nightmare come alive. Being a pro baseball player has been my dream ever since I was a kid, and now that dream is within my grasps. But it comes at such a high cost. If I follow my dream, I leave Stanford behind and everything that comes with it, including Zane.

We'd hardly be able to see each other, let alone talk, with my training and his work. My chest aches at the thought of not being able to talk or see Zane as much as I want. "I-I don't know," I say. "I really don't know at this point..."

"There's no rush," says Adrian. "The next season doesn't start until next March, and we're still in the middle of the current season. But we like our players to get in as much training as possible before the start of the new season."

So he's basically saying there's no need to rush, but the sooner the better? Isn't he contradicting himself? "However, there is a time window," says Robert. "We're going to need a decision by June so we can start the process of integrating you to the team."

"But...June's when the College World Series happens," I say. "I can't miss that. The team needs me to help them win."

Robert and Adrian exchange another glance before looking back at me. "We'll see if we can push the date back a little more, but we aren't sure at this point," says Adrian. "We have the rest of our team scouring the country, looking at other potential new players. We can only take a few new players. If the rest of the spots are filled before you give us an answer, then we can't add you to the team."

"We're sorry it has to be this way, but it's the team's policy," says Robert. "We'll let you think this all though. If you have any questions, our numbers are on the business cards we gave you. We'll be in touch."

Robert and Adrian leave the office and I'm left staring down at the packet of paper in my hands, the packet that potentially holds my future in it.

----------------

I stare up at the ceiling of my dorm room, my phone pressed to my ear and my mind deep in thought the next afternoon. "So what do you think of it, Dad?" I ask.

"Geez, sport," Dad says. "This is a hell of a contract. The Giants must really want you to offer you all of this."

"You're telling me. Isn't the average for a starting salary for a professional baseball player like four million?"

"And that's if they're lucky. To offer you fifteen million dollars when you're only 19? That screams 'please be on our team.' Plus there are the endorsements, sponsors, you could easily make at least twenty million in your first season if you play like you normally do."

Twenty million dollars if I say yes to the Giants. "But there's still the Cardinal," I say. "How can I abandon them now that we're finally back together? There's also all of my friends, Josh and Leo, and...Zane..."

"You don't want to leave any of them."

"Yeah. Dad, college has changed me so much. I like who I am now, everything's going great for me, and I love everything I'm doing right now. If I say yes to the Giants, everything will change."

"Because of the training?"

"Yeah. It's supposed to be insanely long and tough. I won't be able to keep up with my baseball training and my school life if I say yes to the Giants."

"I'm sensing a but coming up."

I smirk at Dad's lame joke. "But if I say yes, my future would be set. I'd be making enough money to give me an insanely comfortable life. I wouldn't have to worry about anything. I'd be set."

"But would you be happy?"

I try to answer, but no words come to my mouth for several seconds. "I-I'd be doing what I love the most, but I'd be leaving the one I love the most. I don't know what to do, Dad..."

"Well, sport, you're an adult now and you need to make tough decisions on your own. I'm always going to be there to talk to you, but I can't fight your battles for you. Have you talked to Zane about it?"

"No, not yet. I had a game last night and I came back pretty late and fell into bed. Zane has work right now, and I want to tell him in person rather than over the phone. So I'm going to tell him later this afternoon after he leaves work, but I don't want to just sit him down and tell him. I kind of want to make it special."

"Special, huh? When did my boy become such a romantic?" I roll my eyes. "You don't need to go over the top, sport. Simple things with a lot of meaning can go a really long way."

Simple things with a lot of meaning, huh? I think I just came up with one. "I think I got it figured out," I say. "I'll keep thinking about this contract. Thanks, Dad."

"You're welcome, sport. Call again later. Your mother will want to talk to you about this as well and she probably wants to hear how you're doing."

I hang up and continue to stare at the ceiling, pondering what I should do. I eventually rouse myself from my bed and grab my keys, phone and wallet and head out to get everything ready to tell Zane.

----------------

Later in the late afternoon, I have everything ready to tell Zane, including the contract in my pocket. I texted him earlier, saying to come into my room when he gets off work and to text me when he's back at Florence Moore. As I'm checking my appearance in my mirror, my pocket vibrates and I see Zane's name on the screen.

'Coming up the elevator now. You said you have something to tell me?'

I slide my phone in my pocket and rush to hide behind the door. A few seconds later, there's a knock at the door. "Eric?" Zane says. "I'm coming in." The door opens and Zane walks into the room, looking around. I rush up behind him and wrap him in a very tight hug, making him yelp. "You fucking scared me!"

I spin him around in my arms and give him a kiss. "Sorry. How was work?"

"Pretty good. I watched a tattoo virgin get his first tattoo. He was insanely nervous at first, but he pulled through with only a little crying."

"I bet Courtney was holding out on trying not to break out laughing."

"Oh, she didn't hold back. She just laughed at seeing this guy in pain, but he was a good sport about it and laughed about it afterword."

"That's good to hear...I think. Hey, have you eaten?"

"Nope. You told me you wanted to talk and I assumed you wanted to talk over dinner."

"You assumed right. You want to go eat now or do you want to wait a few minutes?"

"Now's good. I skipped lunch to work on a tattoo sketch for Kendra, so I'm pretty hungry."

"Well, let's get some food I that bottomless pit of a stomach of yours."

I give him another kiss and set him back down on the floor. We head out and ride down to the ground floor. "So are we going to the dining hall or somewhere off campus?" Zane asks me when we step out of the elevator.

"No, we're staying on campus, but we aren't going to the dining hall. I have a different thing ready."

Zane seems confused, but he keeps walking with me. After walking with my hand in Zane's for another five minutes, I see where we're eating right in the middle of the grassy quad. And I feel Zane see it too. "Table...or blanket for two?" I ask.

Instead of the dining hall or a restaurant, I've chosen to go very simple with a picnic. And yes, I also went very cliché. Woven basket, red and white checkered blanket, and all the works. And with the sun just starting to set, it's perfect. "Wow, Eric," Zane says with a smile.

I lead him to the blanket and seat him down, taking a seat across from him. "I really hope you aren't bringing me bad news," Zane says. "Because that would completely ruin the mood."

"No, it's not really bad news, but I can tell you when we're eating." I reach into the basket and pull out two foot long subs. "I got you your favorite."

"Turkey, ham, salami, muenster, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, mustard, mayo, on a lightly toasted wheat bun?" he asks with him mouth watering a bit.

"Yup," I say handing the sub to him. "I'm lucky the place didn't charge by the weight of the sub. That thing must weigh two pounds."

Zane smiles innocently and takes a large bite of his sub. "God, I needed this," he says with a mouthful of food and a little mustard on the side of his mouth.

I reach into the basket and pull out a napkin and wipe the mustard off Zane's face. "Try to get it all in your mouth."

Zane blushes before chuckling a little. "That sounded really wrong."

My face reddens as well. I grab my simple Philly cheesesteak and take a bite of it. But by the time I finish a third of it, Zane's taking the last bite of his. "You've got to me kidding me," I say. "Where do you put it all?"

"I sometimes think that there's either a second stomach in me or a small portal to another dimension that transports the food I eat once it."

I rip off the second third of my cheesesteak and hand it to Zane. He smiles and takes it from my hand. I reach into the basket again and pull out two cans of soda followed by a small chocolate cake for the two of us. "You really went all out with this, didn't you?" Zane asks with a smile.

"You deserve the best, Zane. So I'm trying to be the best."

"Eric, to me you're already the best."

I smile as well and top the tops on the sodas and give one to Zane before I cut the cake and give half of it to Zane. As I savor every bite of the cake, Zane just inhales it and it's gone within two minutes. I take a look at Zane's face and see chocolate icing surrounding his mouth, but he seems completely oblivious to it.

Still smiling, I set my cake down and grab another napkin from the basket. "You really need to slow down when you eat," I say, wiping the icing from his mouth.

"But it was a really good cake..." I roll my eyes and finish wiping Zane's mouth clean, giving him a light kiss and tasting the leftover flavor of chocolate on his lips. "So what is it you wanted to talk to me about?"

I take the last bite of my cake and look back at him. "Zane, I need to tell you something very important. This is probably the biggest thing I've ever had to choose in my life and I really don't know what to do about it."

Zane's face shifts to concern. "This is really serious, isn't it?"

"Yeah." I take a few breaths to collect myself. "Zane, after my game last night, two guys came to talk to me. They were the heads of the recruitment team for the San Francisco Giants and...they offered me a spot on the team for next season."

It takes a second, but Zane's face quickly fills with excitement. "Holy fuck, Eric! The fucking Giants?! A professional baseball team wants you!" Zane leaps forward into my chest, hugging me tightly. "I'm so happy for you, Eric!"

"Yeah, I'm happy too."

Zane slowly lifts out of my chest and look into my eyes. "You don't sound too happy."

"No, I'm over the moon about this." I reach into my pocket and pull out the contract. "This is a contract the guys gave me. It says that I would be given fifteen million dollars in my starting season if I say yes and a few more million dollars from endorsement deals. It would total around twenty million."

"Twenty million?! That's insane for a rookie!"

"Yeah, I know. I'm supposed to give them my answer before June, but I may be allowed to answer a few weeks after that."

"Why haven't you said yes already?! I would've said yes the second they offered me a spot!"

My stomach starts to hurt from the words bubbling in my gut. "But there's a down side to all this," I say. "Zane, if I say yes to the Giants, they'd have me start training immediately for the next season. Training for the next season goes from late January to the star of the new season in the middle of March.

"What I'm saying is...the training is very tough and time consuming. I wouldn't have time to both attend training and go to class. Do you understand where I'm going with this?"

Zane's face falls from its high to a very sullen low in record time. "Y-You mean...?" he starts to ask.

"Yeah. Zane, I'd have to leave Stanford if I accept the Giants' offer..."

The air around us feels like it's crushing both of us with an incredible weight. "Y-You'd be leaving?" Zane stammers. "I feel like I'm going to be sick."

I pull Zane close to me and give him a soft squeeze. "I know it's a lot to take in, Zane. It was for me too. I chose not to give them an answer when they offered me the spot so I could talk to you about it. So...what do you think?"

Zane lifts his head off my shoulder and looks back at me. "I-I don't know. This is a huge opportunity for you, Eric, and I think you should go for it, but at the same time, I don't want you to leave. But I also don't want to stop you for chasing after your dreams."

"Yeah, I'm really torn too. This is the once in a lifetime chance that hardly anyone gets, and I don't want to let it slip through my fingers. But I love you too much to let you go. I don't know what to do here, Zane..."

I blink tears away and look down at my lap. There's suddenly a hand on my chin and my head tilts up and Zane's black and blue eyes meet me. "Eric...I think...I think you should go for it."

My mouth goes slack. "R-Really?"

"Yeah. Eric, you can't give up your chance to play with the Giants. You've been wanting to go pro since you were 6 years old, right?"

"Well...yeah..."

"Then you should follow your dream, Eric. I know that' line has been said in every corny romantic comedy there is, but it's true. Your dream is waiting right in front of you and I shouldn't stop you from achieving that dream."

"B-But what about us?"

"We can make it work. We're going to be apart anyway for the summer, and when school starts back up in August, you'll still be training and it's only about thirty minutes away from campus."

How can Zane be so optimistic about all of this? This could really hurt our relationship if something goes wrong. "B-But..." I start to say.

"Eric, don't worry. We'll be okay. So...tell the Giants you want to join the team."

Zane's bright eyes slowly start to fill me with the same confidence he seems to have. "Okay. I'll do it. But...I'll make the call tomorrow. Right now, I just want to lie down with you and hold you tightly."

Zane smiles and gives me a soft kiss before I fall backward with him in my arms. We stare up at the orange sky together, neither of us saying a word, but our smiles at one another are worth a thousand words.

----------------

My eyes slowly open and I look around at the dark room. The clock behind the head of the bed says it's just after 2:00 in the morning. Zane and I came back into the room a few hours ago and quickly decided we just wanted to get some sleep. But right now, my throat feels like it's filled with sandpaper.

I crawl out of beg, careful not to wake up Zane, and grab a plastic cup from the floor and make my way across the hall in nothing but my underwear. When it's this late, you really don't give a fuck if people see you almost naked. My feet walk onto the cool tiled floor of the bathroom and it sends a shiver up my spine.

While I expect to find the bathroom empty, I find my roommate standing by the sink with a cup of his own, except his appearance is a little more modest, a tight t-shirt and underwear. "Hey, Eric," Josh sleepily says. "What're you doing up?"

"I woke up and it felt like my throat was on fire. I just needed some water." I walk over to the sink and quickly fill my cup and chug it down, feeling relief from the liquid. "Why're you up?"

"I had to go to the bathroom and I was thirsty too." Josh glances down and I see a smirk on his face. "Nice undies."

"Speak for yourself."

Yeah, I found the thong to be so comfortable that I looked for other types of underwear online a while ago. Right now, I'm wearing a bright red brief that makes my already large package seem even larger. Josh, however, is wearing a pure, black jock. "I blame you for this," I say.

"Hey, I'm not the one who likes to wear thongs. I just choose to wear some provocative underwear and you picked it up too. Guess we know who the exhibitionist is among us." I give Josh a light punch in the shoulder, making us both laugh a bit. "How did Zane take the news, by the way?"

"Surprisingly well. He encouraged me to accept the offer for the Giants and I said I would."

Josh's face falls a bit. "So...I won't be seeing you next year?"

The realization fills my stomach with a sickening feeling. Josh has become such a great friend over the past nine months. Leaving him is going to be one of the worst parts of leaving. "Yeah..." I quietly say.

Unable to meet Josh's eye, I look down at the tiled floor while the pit in my gut continues to grow. "But I'm really happy for you, Eric," Josh says.

I glance up a bit. "You are?"

"Yeah. I mean I've been a fan of the Giants since I was a kid. With you on the team, I'll be even more supportive of the team. Who can say one of their best friend's is a professional baseball player? You should be proud of yourself too."

My mouth twitches a bit. "Yeah, I guess I am. But...I'm really going to miss this place. Stanford has changed me so much. When I first got here, I was kind of an asshole and I thought I had everything planned. But then I met you, Leo, and...Zane. You guys have changed me too and for the better.

"Now, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life, I have you and Leo for great friends, and I have Zane as the greatest boyfriend anyone could have. So...I kind of owe some of this to you guys..."

Josh steps forward and pulls me into a crushing hug, his large chest and arms enveloping me. "Eric. Leo, Zane, and I had nothing to do with you becoming the guy you are today. That was all you. You chose to change all on your own and now you're a humble, caring, and great person."

I return Josh's hug with one of my own. "Thanks, Josh. It's going to really suck when I don't have you as a roommate next year."

"Yeah, it will for me too. But next year you're going to be playing on the Giants' home turf. And Zane, Leo, and I are going to watch the first game you play in."

Josh releases me and he gives me a pat on the shoulder and a smile before taking his cup and walking out of the bathroom, leaving me smiling. Yeah, I'm really going to miss this place...

-----------------

It's a week later and I'm driving from Stanford to San Francisco (well, I'm actually taking a taxi, but you get what I'm saying). I'm heading into the city to talk with the GM of the Giants. I called and accepted the offer to join the team a few days ago and we arranged a meeting for today. I don't know it is we're talking about, but I'm feeling incredibly nervous.

The taxi winds through the traffic congested streets of the city before finally pulling up to AT&T Park. I pay the taxi driver the fare plus tip and hop out of the taxi. I gaze up at the giant stadium (no pun intended) for several moments, before a voice come from my side. "Eric!"

I look over and see Robert and Adrian walking over to me, both of them still wearing nice suits. "Glad you could make it," says Adrian.

"Yeah, I am too," I say.

"Follow us," says Robert. "We're going to take you on a tour of the stadium, locker rooms, and field before we introduce you to Randy Fairbank, the general manager. You'll love him. He's probably one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet."

Robert and Adrian lead the way with me following close behind them. I may be several inches taller than either man, but right now it feels like I'm a child following his parents. We walk inside the stadium and I can hear our footsteps echo throughout the lobby. "First off," says Adrian, "I'd like to personally welcome you to the home of the San Francisco Giants, Eric."

"Thank you," I say.

"We're ecstatic that you decided to accept our offer," says Robert. "We know it must've been hard for you to make such a decision and we thank you for choosing the Giants."

I nod a bit and continue to follow the two men, taking in everything as we go by it. They lead me to a door and we walk through and head down a few flights of stairs before walking through a brightly lit concrete hallway. We approach another door and Adrian swipes a key card through the lock and the door clicks open after a second.

We walk in and my breath stops short. We're in the Giants' locker room and I'm screaming on the inside. Brilliant wooden cabinets line the wall with various articles of clothing filing them, soft carpet covers the floor with several leather chairs scattered everywhere and several flat screen TVs mount the walls.

I'm left standing there with my mouth open a bit. "It's a little different from the college locker room, isn't it?" asks Adrian.

"There isn't even a chair in the Cardinal locker room," I say. "We only have wooden benches."

"C'mon," says Robert. "We'll show you the field. I think the team is practicing now."

Wait, I'm going to be standing on the same with the Giants?! I suddenly feel like I'm about to puke. Adrian and Robert lead me through the locker room and we stop out into the dugout. I immediately see many of the Giants players on the field in the middle of practice and feel my skin break out in sweat.

I watch the players go through their practice routines in complete awe. So this is the Major League. It's unbelievable. "Pretty exciting up close, isn't it?" Adrian asks me.

"I-I'm actually going to be on this field?" I stupidly ask.

"Yes, you are," says Robert. "But there's only one spot you need to be concerned about, and that's the pitcher's mound."

"This is the basic training you'll be doing with the team when you start," says Adrian. "It may seem pretty simple, but trust me you'll feel like you're about to die after the first practice."

I audibly gulp at the mention of me participating in such a hard practice. I mean, these guys are pros and they're gasping for air. I'm just a college player. How will I be after just one practice? "I think we've seen enough here," says Robert. "Follow us. We'll introduce you to Randy."

And now I'm going to be talking to the GM of the Giants. As if I weren't nervous before. We turn and walk back into the locker room, me taking everything in again. We exit the locker room and walk back upstairs and after a bit more walking, we find a steel plated door. Robert swipes a key card in the locker and I hear a low rumble.

The door splits in two and I see the door leads to an elevator. We step in the Adrian presses the top button. The doors close and the elevator rises up, the intercom beeping with every floor we pass. The elevator comes to a stop after a few seconds and the doors open once again and I see we're in a different world.

The stadium that most people see is all concrete and steel. Where we are now is all carpeted floors, dark wood lined walls, and leather furniture. We step out of the elevator and walk down another hallway, decorated with Giants-oriented art. We approach a large set of dark wood double doors and Robert and Adrian walk in ahead of me.

We walk into what appears to be your everyday waiting room, except the furniture is a lot nicer (but it has the same smell. They all seem to have the same smell, don't they?). We walk up to a counter and I see a woman who appears to be in her early sixties with grey hair in a tight bun, an above average body, and a kind face.

She looks up from her computer and sees us and smiles. "Hi Robert and Adrian," she says in a southern accent. "Are you here to see Randy?"

"Hi Rose," says Robert. "Yes, we're here to see Robert. We're going to introduce him to the newest recruit to the Giants." He gestures behind him to me. "Rose, this is Eric Swanson. Eric, this is Rose. She's Randy's secretary."

I step up to the counter and extend my hand. "It's nice to me you, Rose," I say.

She smiles sweetly at me and takes my hand in a surprisingly tight grip. "Oh, a gentleman. I like you already. Not to mention you are one fine piece of ass."

I keep my jaw from dropping to the floor. Did that just come out of this woman's mouth? Robert and Adrian chuckle next to me. "So is Randy in?" asks Adrian.

"He is," Rose replies. "I'll buzz him and let him know you're here." She reaches for the phone and presses a button and holds the phone to her ear. "Randy? Robert and Adrian are here with Eric Swanson. Can I send them in? Great. Thank you, Randy." She sets the phone on the receiver and looks back at us. "Go ahead in. It was very nice to meet you, Eric. If you weren't a homosexual, I'd try to set you up with my granddaughter."

"It was nice to meet you as well, Rose," I reply.

Robert and Adrian lead me to the door to the left of Rose's desk and we walk through it. We step into a dark wooden office with large bookshelves on both sides of the room, filled to the brims with books. Two large leather chairs sit in front of a large dark wooden desk and at the desk is a man staring intently at a computer screen.

He looks to be in his mid-forties with lightly greying hair, a thin salt and pepper goatee, thin, wire-frame glasses and an average body. He looks up from his computer screen and sees us and smiles. "Ah! Robert and Adrian! Come in! I see our future ace is with you!"

We step a bit more into the office and Robert shuts the door behind us. "Please do take a seat, Eric," he continues. "We have much to discuss." I walk to one of the leather chairs and slowly sit myself down. "I'd like to personally welcome you to the Giants."

"Um...thank you, Mr. Fairbank," I timidly reply.

Mr. Fairbank lets out a hearty laugh. "Oh, please do call me Randy. Mr. Fairbank makes me feel old."

"Um...okay, Randy."

Randy smiles warmly at me before reaching to the right side of his desk and grabbing a thin packet of paper and handing it to me. "This is the contract that will make you a full-fledged member of the Giants. I'm sure you've read the copy Robert and Adrian gave you?"

"I did."

"Good, so you know what the contract says. You can go ahead and sign it and we'll..."

"But I'd like to take another look over it, just to be sure I know what I'm signing."

Randy smiles at me and sits back in his chair. "Of course."

I look down at the contract and take my time going through it, paragraph-by-paragraph, line-by-line, and word-by-word. So far, everything seems much the same. The second and third pages are also the same. The last page also seems the same. I guess I should just sign...wait. That's different.

I take a closer look at the contract and see that there's a clear difference. Thank God Dad taught me to read everything I sign. I look back up at Randy. "This isn't the same contract I read earlier."

He gives me a confused look. "It isn't?"

"No. This contract says that if I don't sign this contract by the end of May, this contract will be destroyed and my potential recruitment will be terminated permanently. This is essentially saying that if I don't sign this contract by the end of May, I won't get a spot on the Giants, now or ever."

Randy looks like he's about to respond when the phone suddenly rings. "Excuse me." He reaches for the phone and holds it to his ear. "Yes? What? His attorney? Um...send him in, I guess..."

Randy sets the phone back on the receiver and looks back at me. "It appears your attorney is here."

Attorney? I never hired an attorney. The door suddenly opens behind us and I turn around and feel my breath stop short. "Hello, I'm representing Eric here. Todd Swanson, attorney at law."

"Dad!" I say, jumping out of my seat. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I'm here to make sure you're not signing something that could put you in a nasty situation. Plus I wanted to see you, sport, so it's a win-win for me." He walks over to me and gives me a quick hug before turning to Randy. "I take it you're the general manager for the Giants?"

"Yes, sir," says Randy, who also rises out of his seat. "Randy Fairbank. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Swanson."

"Likewise. Why don't we all take a seat?" Dad and I sit in the two leather chairs and Randy falls back into his seat while Robert and Adrian stand off to the side. "Eric, have you read the contract?" Dad asks me.

"Yeah, and I've found a change in it that puts me in a bit of an awkward situation. It's on page four, second paragraph."

I hand Dad the contract and he goes to the paragraph and quickly reads it over. He looks back up at Randy and I see his determined attorney look on his face. "Mr. Fairbank," he says, completely serious. "Do you realize what kind of situation this puts my client in?"

So I'm his client? It feels a bit weird, but I kind of like seeing Dad in action. "No, I'm not," Randy replies.

"I'm sure your recruitment heads have mentioned to you that Eric is still a college student and also a member of the Stanford Cardinal, who, I might mention, are on their way to the College World Series in just a few days?"

Randy glances at Robert and Adrian and back to Dad. "Actually, Mr. Swanson, I was not aware of the situation Eric was in right now with his college baseball team." Excuse me? Did I just hear that right? "I was told that the Cardinal hadn't qualified for the College World Series."

Huh? All eyes in the room turn to Adrian and Robert, but I see no noticeable reaction from either of them. "Care to explain this to me, gentlemen?" Randy asks.

"I wasn't the one that relayed that information to you, sir," says Adrian. "I left it up to Robert."

"Did you make this contract?" Randy asks Adrian.

"I did not, sir. I made the first contract that Eric had read earlier. The contract in question at the moment I had no part of. Robert told me that he wanted to make an adjustment to the wording of the contract before Eric were to sign it."

And now we're all focused on Robert. "Care to explain, Robert?" asks Randy.

I suddenly see a light layer of sweat start to break out on Robert's forehead and he seems to be squirming a bit. "Sir, I only did what I felt was in the best interest of the team," he replies. "So...I changed the contract a bit to have Eric join the team immediately. I couldn't let him get away from us..."

Anger suddenly boils up inside me. So this asshole almost made me sign something that would cause me to abandon the guys? "Robert, was it?" says Dad. "Do you realize that this contract is putting an undue burden on my client by saying that if he does not sign this contract within the next ten days, he'll never be given a chance with the Giants again?

"An undue burden in a contract calls for legal action. My client and I could sue the Giants for this and with the evidence you've just given, plus the contract, it could land the Giants in some very hot water, causing a large amount of money to go to my client for damages. It would put the Giants in a very negative light."

Holy shit. Dad's got this guy physically shaking in his boots. I look back at Randy and see him rubbing his eyes in frustration. He looks back at me. "Eric, let me assure you that this contract will be destroyed and the copy you first read will be the one we will be using for your contract with the Giants.

"I understand that you have a commitment to your team and you may play in the College World Series as you were going to do before. I'm so very sorry about the situation you were put in. Please accept my sincerest apologies."

The look on Randy's face tells me that he had absolutely nothing to do with this. "It's okay, Randy," I say. "It wasn't your fault."

"Thank you for your understanding, Eric. It means a great deal to me." He looks to Robert with a dark glare. "As for you, Robert. You've lost all of my respect and you're lucky I'm not firing you for your actions. But I like you too much as a person to fire you. So I'm going to let you keep your job, but you're going to have to earn my respect back.

"You have no idea what your actions may have done had this been taken to court. We would have lost millions of dollars in loss of revenue from the reactions of the public, not to mention the hefty sum of cash we would've had to pay Eric here. You could've ruined the name of the Giants themselves."

God, this is one of the worst lectures I've ever heard. If I were on the receiving end of it, I'd be in tears right now. And it looks like Robert's on the verge of them. "Adrian, you're now the sole head of the recruitment team," Randy continues. "Robert will be working under you from now until further notice. Will you be up to the task of pulling his weight?"

"I will, sir," Adrian replies.

"Good. I'll be counting on you. Now would you please leave so I may discuss Eric's future with the team?"

"Of course, sir."

"Thank you. The same goes for you Robert. Get the hell out of my office."

Robert looks like he's had his spirit crushed as he and Adrian step out of the office, leaving Randy, Dad, and myself. "Now, if I destroy this contract and replace it with the one in Eric's possession, what happens?" Randy asks Dad.

"If you promise to leave the contract the same as the one my son already knows, then I don't see any reason we'll need to go to court," Dad replies.

Randy takes the contract back from Dad and places it below his desk. There's a sudden low mechanical noise and I hear the sound of the contract being run through a shredder. "And that settles that," Randy says. His attitude suddenly perks up and he looks back to his normal self. "Now, where were we?"

----------------

About thirty minutes and a little negotiation later, we've finally come up with an agreement that works for all of us. "Thank you so much for helping us to solve the issue of that old contract," Randy says, rising out of his chair and extending his hand toward Dad. "And thank you for understanding."

Dad smiles and takes Randy's hand. "I should be thanking you for giving my son such an amazing opportunity. The Major League has been his dream since he first picked up a baseball."

"Well, I'm happy I could help make that dream come true for Eric." Randy turns to me. "Welcome to the Giants, Eric."

I shake Randy's hand. "Thank you for giving me a chance, Randy. I won't let you down."

"I know you won't. If you have any questions or concerns, just give me a call. We'll see you once you win the College World Series."

Dad and I thank Randy again and step out of the office. Once we're out, I give Dad the hardest hug I've ever given him. "You have no idea how much you saved my ass in there, Dad."

I feel him hug me back. "It was nothing, sport. From what I got, you looked like you were going to teach those guys in there a thing or two about what your old man's taught you."

I feel myself blushing a little. "Maybe..."

Dad laughs and slings his arm around my shoulder. "Now, let a dad treat his son to some ice cream to celebrate him becoming a Giant."

"Dad, I'm 19."

"You're never too old for ice cream."

My mouth shifts to a grin. "Double scoop?"

"Whatever you want."

I laugh and snake my arm around Dad's shoulder and we're off to get that ice cream.

----------------

It's a few days later and after a good game against USC we won, I'm with the team in the locker room changing back into my clothes after a shower. The energy in the room is electric with both the school year coming to an end in a few days and the knowledge that we're heading off to Omaha, Nebraska after the year ends for the College World Series.

Charles comes out of his office and claps his hands loudly for everyone to quiet down. "Okay, boys!" he calls. "Shut your traps!"

It takes a few seconds, but the locker room eventually quiets down. "You played some great ball tonight and I couldn't be happier with the end result. As you know, the ten seniors on the team this year will be graduating in a few days and tonight was their last regular season game. So I want to thank them for being such great players and such great assents to the team."

The locker room fills with applause and thanks for the seniors that are leaving the team after the College World Series. "You all will have to take their place and be the role models they were for the freshmen next year," Charles continues. "Take what you've learned from these guys here and teach it to those newcomers. Understood?"

"Yes, Coach Higgins!" we all reply.

"Now, Eric mentioned to me earlier that he has some news that he would like to share with us." Charles looks over at me. "Eric, was is it you'd like to tell us?"

I take in a deep breath and step over to Charles' side and look at my teammates. "Guys, I love every single one of you," I start. "Don't take that the wrong way because I'm gay." The guys get a small laugh out of that. "But seriously. I do love all of you. You guys have become the best team I've ever been apart of in my life.

"So...this is really hard for me to say." I take a few breaths and see concern in the guys' faces. "A few weeks ago, two guys came to talk to me after our game against ASU. They were recruiters and they offered me a spot on the San Francisco Giants and I accepted it a few days ago. So next year, I won't be a Cardinal. I'll be a Giant."

Every face in the locker room registers what I just said with complete shock. "I know it's hard to hear, but I'm not going to playing on the same field as you guys. But just know that I'm still going to see you guys as my teammates. I always will."

Everyone in the locker room has a completely defeated look on their face, even Charles, Luke, and the other coaches. Seeing this, I take my fist and slam it into the wooden door of Charles' office, making everyone jump "Hey! Where the hell's the team I'm still apart of?!"

The guys glance at one another. "I may not be apart of the team next year, but right now, I'm still 100% dedicated to the Cardinal! And I'm going to work my fucking ass off until we win that championship title for Stanford! Now where the fuck is the team that I love?! Where's the team that's going to help me bring back that World Series title?!"

Within a second, the guys' energy jumps ten fold and the locker room erupts into a frenzy. The guys are cheering and rooting like there's no tomorrow. The coaches join in as well and for the next fifteen minutes, it's nonstop chanting and high-energy. I'm really going to miss this team...

After everything calms down, I grab my stuff, say goodbye to the guys and the coaches and make my way over to the dining hall for a quick dinner with Zane. I meet him outside the dining hall and give him a kiss. "I take it you told the guys?" he says.

"Yeah. They were down about it at first, but I managed to get them to be excited for the World Series in a few days."

"That's good to hear. Let's grab something to eat. I'm starving."

"That's no surprise."

Zane smiles and we both quickly get some food and take a seat at a table. After a minute or two, I notice that Zane isn't eating his food with as much vigor as he usually does. "Hey, what's wrong?" I ask, placing my hand over his.

He glances up at me before looking down at his food. "Nothing, I guess."

"You guess?"

"It's just...I'm leaving for Dallas in a few days once I finish my finals. And you're off to Omaha for the World Series. And after that, you're starting with the Giants. You're not going to be coming to school here anymore. You'll be off playing in baseball games. We're not going to have as many experiences like this once the school year ends.

"All I'm saying is...is that I'm really going to miss you, Eric..."

I see Zane's eyes start to gloss over and I feel guilt building up in my chest. "Zane..." I quietly say.

"Don't get me wrong, Eric. I couldn't be prouder of you and I'm so happy that you're going to be fulfilling your dream. But it's just going to be so hard without seeing you in person every day. I love you so much and being apart from you is going to really hurt..."

I see a tear slip out of the corner of Zane's blue eye ad he quickly wipes it away before chuckling a little. "I'm sounding so selfish right now, putting myself before your dreams..."

"No, you sound perfectly reasonable," I interrupt. "Zane, this is one of the biggest choices I've ever made in my life and there hasn't been a day that's gone by since I was first offered a spot on the Giants where I didn't think about how you must be feeling about all of this and it's really been hard for me too.

"I'm going to miss you every minute of every day when you leave for home for the summer. And it's going to be so hard for me to wake up in the morning and not have your face be the first thing I see when I open my eyes. I'm going to miss you so much that it feels like my heart is being torn out of my chest at this very moment.

"There are so many things I'm going to miss about this school, but I'm going to miss you the most, Zane. I love you so much..."

I quickly wipe my eyes dry before my own tears can fall out. Zane and I sit in silence for a minute. "I'm suddenly not very hungry anymore," Zane says.

"Yeah, me neither. Do you just want to head back to the dorm and head off to bed? It's almost 11:00 and I know you have one of your finals tomorrow morning."

"Yeah, I'd like that."

Zane and I clear our food, much of it still untouched, and take what we can with us for a snack later. We get back to Florence Moore Hall and ride up to the fourth floor. We walk into my room and put the leftover food into my fridge before starting to strip down. "Did you ask Josh if I could spend the night in here?" Zane asks me.

"Yeah, I texted him on the way here. He said he understood and he'll just spend the night in yours and Leo's room."

Zane just nods. Once we grab two t-shirts and two pairs of shorts for a bit of decency, Zane and I walk across the hall and get ready for bed, neither of us saying a thing the whole time. The topic of me leaving is weighing pretty heavily on both of us. We get everything done and walk back into my room and strip once again.

I step over to my bed and open the covers for me and Zane. He crawls in wearing nothing but his underwear and it's the same attire for me. I shut off my lamp and crawl under the covers with Zane and we both immediately take hold of one another and grasp each other tightly, looking into each other's faces through the darkness.

Zane moves as close to me as possible and I give him a light kiss. "Good night, Zane. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Eric."

Within a few minutes, we're both asleep in each other's arms. A few hours pass and my eyes slowly open and I see I'm still surrounded by darkness. The light of the moon is coming in through the window and I see the time is just a little before 3:00 in the morning. Feeling a bit thirsty, I manage to slip out of Zane's grasp and my feet find the hardwood floor.

I walk over to my fridge and pull out a bottle of water, quickly chugging half the bottle before putting it back in the fridge. Feeling the call of nature, I tiptoe over to the door and quietly slip out to head to the bathroom. Once I finish my business, I walk back across the hall and silently step back into the room.

As I close the door, I hear a soft noise fill the room. My feet carry me to the center of the room and I still hear the noise. I look to my bed and see that the noise is coming from Zane. He must be snoring a bit. I step over to the side of the bed and am about to crawl back in when I stop.

The noise continues to quietly fill the room and, thanks to the light of the moon, I see Zane's face. It's completely soaked with tears, but he appears to still be sleeping. His face is locked in pure anguish and the noise I now make out as whimpering. He looks to be in a terrible nightmare he can't get out of.

I'm about to wake him up and his mouth suddenly opens. "Eric...p-please...don't leave me..."

My heart suddenly breaks into a million pieces and tears quickly escape my eyes and slide down my cheeks. My body slowly crawls back into bed and I pull the covers over both Zane and me and I carefully hold Zane tightly. He unconsciously wraps his arms around my body and his cries continue.

I pull Zane close to me and let my tears flow onto my pillow. "P-Please...don't go, Eric. I-I...love you..."

It takes all my strength not to cry out in grief. I clutch Zane tightly and feel my tears mixing with his. Is following my dreams while leaving the love of my life the right thing to do...?

 

RichardAdams

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