Hey everyone. RichardAdams here. I was reading the comments of the last three chapters. Thank you all for liking the new series so much. But I also noticed that some comments have asked if you could talk to me about story ideas. And the answer is yes. You can talk to me about anything you want.

I already converse with several other people that have read 'Am I...?' and 'Could I Be...?' I talk to icevuk2634 (author of My First Summer) about his works. I email Lexi_ind, answering and asking questions (happy early birthday, by the way). I talk to Nex (author of Milk and Chocolate) and help him edit his stories. There's also Andre, Curtis, Matt, zdramer, Roman, and others as well, (sorry if I didn't mention you or you didn't want to be recognized).

So if you want to talk to me about anything, be it questions, comments, concerns, ideas, or are just saying hi, I will always answer. I wouldn't be here without your support and I thank you all for it. Thank you all again. Here's Chapter 4 of 'Could I Be...?'

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Chapter 4

It's been about a week since Zane left me alone in the bathroom, and I haven't seen or even heard from him since then. He's probably avoiding me, and I think I may be avoiding him unconsciously as well. Seeing him would probably hurt too much right now. So this is what it's like to be turned down...

Josh has been helping me to try and get over this, and while I appreciate it, it isn't helping. I like Zane too much to get over him. I've never had any feelings toward anyone else before, so I don't know what to do.

October's here and the temperature's gone down a little, but it's still nice enough to wear shorts and t-shirts. I'm headed to the gym for a workout and maybe to clear my head a little. I walk in and see that there are a few dozen people already here. As I start to walk over to a treadmill, a sudden distant grunt grabs my attention.

I look over to a boxing ring and see that there are two guys standing in the ring, both of them wearing boxing gloves and head protective gear. One guy in bright red shorts comes at the other guy in dark blue shorts with a swift kick to the side. Blue shorts brings his knee up and his elbow down to deflect the blow, but a resonating smack tells me that must've hurt.

Blue shorts takes a sudden few steps back to collect himself, but red shorts isn't letting up. He throws punch after punch at blue shorts, who manages to deflect them all. With a swift elbow jab to the stomach, red shorts stumbles back a few feet from the blow. Blue shorts charges at red shorts and as soon as he's close, he jumps up and extends his knee.

The knee collides with red shorts' face and he goes flying back, landing on the floor with a loud thud. Blood pours out of his nose and a moan escapes his throat. A man suddenly jumps into the ring and kneels down by red shorts' side. "You okay, Connor?" he asks.

"Yeah," red shorts (Connor) groans. "I don't think it broke my nose..."

The man helps Connor to his feet and carefully removes his headgear. The man walks over to blue shorts and slaps his on the back. "Nice kao loi, Leo," he says.

"Thanks, Coach." Leo? Blue shorts takes off his headgear and I recognize the jet-black hair and perfect face. It really is Leo, and holy fuck. He just took someone who has an easy five inches and thirty pounds on him. He walks over to Connor and extends his hand. "Nice fight," he says.

Connor smiles through the blood and takes Leo's hand. "Hard to believe you just joined the club. I should've said no when you asked if knees to the face were allowed."

"You almost had me when you threw those punches. You should get your nose checked out." Connor nods and both he and Leo step out of the ring, the coach walking out with Connor. Leo walks over to a bench and grabs an awaiting towel and wipes the sweat off his face and chest. He glances over and sees me standing. "Hey, Eric."

"Hey..." I say, still in amazement.

"You saw that?"

"The last part. Josh wasn't kidding when he said you could kill someone." Leo laughs a bit. "Was that kickboxing?"

"Nah, Muay Thai. The two are easy to mix up, though. Connor, the guy I was just fighting, is a former graduate of Stanford and often stops in to check out the kickboxing and Muay Thai teams. He's going on to become a professional kickboxer and he might just do it."

"He's going pro and you just kicked his ass?"

Leo shrugs. "It was a tough fight. Had we both been doing kickboxing, I might've lost. But since he let me do my Muay Thai, I managed to win. Anyway, what's up?"

"Um...not much. Just came here to get a workout in."

Leo makes a face at me. "Come sit down with me for a few minutes." Leo walks me over to the bench where his workout bag sits. I take a seat and he slips on a black tank top and sits down next to me. "Josh told me about what happened between you and Zane."

I look down at my shoes. "He did?"

"Yeah. I can only imagine what you must be going through right now, but it must feel terrible."

"That's an understatement. Zane's the first guy I've ever liked and the face he made when I told him I liked him ripped right through me. Now...I can't even think about looking at him because I'm afraid he'll make that face again."

"Eric, what if I told you that Zane has been really affected by this too?"

I look at Leo. "What?"

"Zane's been pretty down the last few days. He hasn't said very much and he's been spending a lot of time just drawing in his sketchbook. The only times he leaves is to go to class, shower and to get food. Other than that, he just...doesn't do anything."

Just knowing Zane's been upset by this whole thing makes me feel horrible. Had I just kept my big mouth shut, everything would be fine. "How're you handling all this?" Leo asks.

"It's...really sucked. I've never felt this way about any other person. I don't know what to do..."

Leo scoots a little closer to me and lowers his voice. "Eric, what I'm about to tell you, you can't let Zane know."

"What do you mean?"

"I managed to sneak a look in Zane's sketchbook while he was out getting something to eat. What I saw both took my breath away and made me smile."

"What was it?"

"It wasn't a single thing. It was pages and pages of sketches. All of them of you."

I look at Leo, in complete shock. "He's been drawing...me?"

"He's been drawing nothing but you. There must've been dozens of sketches of you. They were everything from just pictures of you sitting and doing nothing, to action shots of you running, pitching, everything. And they all have so much detail in them that you could tell Zane put a lot of heart and soul into them.

"When I saw them for the first time, I was so...moved by them, that I had to actually sit down to take it all in. He must've really cared about the drawings when he drew them. He probably really cares about you."

Warmth starts to fill my chest and I feel myself smile. "He...cares about me?"

"He sure seems to by the amount of work and focus I saw him put into those drawings. Maybe you should try and talk to him again, Eric. He looks like he's beating himself up over all of this."

"I'll try and talk to him later."

Leo gives me a pat on the back and stands up. He puts all his stuff into his bag and starts to leave. "You and Zane are good for each other, Eric," he says. "You may not see it, but Josh and I both do."

He waves once then heads out, leaving me alone with my small smile.

After a nice workout and a shower, I'm back in my dorm room watching funny cat videos on YouTube with Josh strumming his guitar quietly. There's a knock at the door and I set my laptop aside and open the door. Charles stands in the doorway. "Afternoon, boy," he says.

"My name is Eric, Charles," I reply.

"Like I said, I'll keep that in mind, boy."

I see he has a fair-sized box in his hands. "Who's the box for?" I ask.

"You." He thrusts the box into my arms and holds out a hand, palm up. "Tip please."

"Are you serious?"

"I'm 63 years old, boy. I had to walk to the elevator, ride up and walk fifty feet to your room. I think that deserves a tip."

I roll my eyes and pull a five out of my pocket. "Here," I say.

He takes the bill and smiles a little. "I was just kidding with the tip, but I'll take the five bucks anyway. Thanks, boy."

Charles hurriedly walks away before I can stop him. I sigh to myself and close the door behind me. "What's in the box?" Josh asks me.

"I don't know." I look at the return label and see it's from my house. "Oh, finally!"

I step over to my bed and grab a pair of scissors from my desk and slice the box open. Inside sits a hard plastic case. I pull out the case and open it, the contents still in perfect condition. "What you got?" Josh asks.

I smile and grab my instrument and look back at him. "It's one of my most prized possessions: my violin."

Josh's eyes brows rise a bit. "You play the violin? I figured you'd be more of a guitar kind of guy."

"I've played since I was 6 years old and have had this violin since I was 9. I left it at home when I first left for school and my parents promised to send it to me. It was stuck in the post office for an extra three weeks and I've been waiting for it to get here." I pluck the strings a bit, soft notes coming from each of them. "Perfect. It's still tuned."

I put the chin rest underneath my chin and hold the bow in my right hand. "Do you mind if I play something?" I ask Josh. "It's been a while."

"Go ahead."

I press the bowstrings to my violin and let the music notes flow into my head. The slow soothing music calms me as it fills the room. 'Canon in D,' my favorite piece. I've missed this feeling so much and I can feel myself smile from the nostalgia. My fingers dance over the stings and I let the music take me over.

Even with my eyes closed, I've played this song hundreds of times and know it by heart. I hear some noise in front of me, but I choose to ignore it and keep playing. As I enter the final notes, I hear something that sounds like mumbling. With a few more chords, the songs ends and I slowly lift my bow off my strings.

I open my eyes and feel my heart jump out of my chest. There must be at least a dozen people in the room and it looks like there's even more in the hallway! They all suddenly start applauding, leaving me confused. I look to my left and see Josh standing next to me. "What the hell are all these people doing here?" I ask.

"I opened the door and they heard you playing all the way down the hall. They came walking in and started listening."

Our floor mates commend me on my playing and start to head back to their rooms. All except one of them, and I can see his dark blue hair from here. Standing in the doorway is Zane with a sketchpad under his arm and a small, saddened look on his face. "Zane," I say.

"Um...hi..." he quietly says, stepping into the room.

"I'll let you two talk," says Josh.

He leaves the room and closes the door behind him, leaving only me, Zane and an uncomfortable silence in the room. "Um...do you want to talk?" I ask.

"Y-Yeah..."

I put my violin and bow back in my case and take a seat on my bed and gesture for Zane to take a seat next to me. He walks across the room and quietly sits down. We both sit in silence for a minute or two. "Um...you play the violin?" Zane asks.

"Oh, yeah. I've played for almost thirteen years now. I'm pretty decent, but it's more of a hobby."

Zane nods a bit and looks to the floor. "I'm sorry," he says.

I look over at him. "Sorry for what?"

"For running out of the bathroom like that. I was just...really surprised and didn't expect to hear what you said and I panicked. So...I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so blunt about it and I put you in a situation you weren't comfortable with. But...I meant what I said." I move a little closer to Zane and look down at him. "I really do like you, Zane."

Zane looks down at his hands. "What could you possibly like about me?"

"Everything. Your tattoos, your piercings, your hair, your body, your eyes, your face, your artwork, I like everything about you. You're the first guy I've ever liked, the first person I've ever liked."

Zane sighs to himself then takes his sketchpad that's sitting in his lap. "Can I show you something?" he asks.

I nod. Zane opens his sketchbook to the very first page and on the page is me. I'm sitting in my desk chair, looking at what appears to be one of my textbooks. I remember this happening because Zane and Leo popped into the room for a few minutes a few weeks ago while I was doing my homework.

Zane flips through the sketchpad and every picture I see is of me is more detailed and has more life than the one before it. Zane gets to the end of the sketchpad and the picture on the page takes my breath away.

It's not like the full body shots in all the other sketches. This one is centered only on my face, and every part of me is drawn to a perfect likeness. The light in my eyes, the teeth in my smile, the small hairs on my face, the dimples in my cheeks, the hair poking out of the front of my cap, it's all there.

I look back at Zane and see he has a smile on his face. "This is my favorite out of all of them," he says.

"Zane..."

"Eric, I like you too..."

The depression I've been feeling over the past seven days lifts off me and disappears. "You do?" I ask.

Zane nods. "I have for almost a month now, since you told me how much you liked my eyes. I've liked you every day since then. I like the way your clothes fit to your muscular body. I like how you wear your baseball cap backwards and that your hair sticks out of that hole in the back of the cap. I like how, while you may be blunt at times, you have a great sense of humor.

"I like the grace and power you show when you throw a baseball. I like the way your face lights up when you smile and laugh. I like how much you've changed from the person you were when we first met. I like every part of you."

"If you've liked me for almost a month, then...why did you run out of the bathroom when I told you?"

Zane's smile deflates. "Because...because it reminded me of my high school."

He suddenly looks to be on the verge of tears and his fists clench tightly. I reach over and lightly put my hand on top of his. The muscles in his fist slowly start to ease and finally relax. "Would you like to tell me about it?" I ask gently.

Zane just breathes for a minute before looking up at me. "Back when I was still a senior in high school, people didn't know I was gay until around early March. Before then, I was still bullied by the baseball team, but there was one guy on the team I thought that I could trust. His name was Damien Branson. He was the captain and pitcher for the team and was gorgeous.

"In the middle of January, I got a note in my locker saying someone wanted to tell me something important and to meet him in the parking lot after school. I thought it was another prank by the baseball team, but I decided to go anyway because if the baseball team wanted to hurt me or anything, there would be plenty of witnesses.

"I went out to the parking lot and didn't find any of the baseball team there, but I did see one person standing by my car: Damien. When I asked him what he wanted, he told me that he'd liked me since freshman year. I was incredibly shocked and a part of me wanted to go against it, but I decided to give him a chance.

"We kept our relationship a secret from everyone and went on a few dates together. It was nice and I was starting to like him. He was funny, smart, and nice. I thought he was the greatest guy I had ever met. That was until March 3rd."

I see tears starting to fill the bases of Zane's eyes. "I was with Damien in the locker room after school. We were...kissing...when his teammates suddenly came into the room. They saw what was going on and flipped their shit. I thought Damien would stick up for me, but I was wrong.

"Damien pushed me off of him and called me a faggot right in front of everyone. He said that I came onto him and his teammates believed him. I don't really remember much of what happened next, but I woke up in the hospital a day later with a broken arm, a fractured tibia, three broken ribs, a severe concussion, and fifty stiches worth of cuts and lacerations."

I feel my blood run cold at what I'm hearing. "The baseball team did that to you?"

Zane nods and two tears escape his eyes, but he makes no effort to wipe them dry. "My parents found out about what had happened, but didn't show up at the hospital until two days after the incident. When they got there, they told me that when I was released, I would go home, get as much of my crap as I could carry and to never come back to their house.

"My parents learned that I was gay and kicked me out. After three more days in the hospital, I went back home, packed up some clothes, my school stuff and my art supplies, and left. My parents weren't home to see me leave, but I left a note in my room, saying I was sorry for being their perfect little disappointment and that they should never try and find me."

Zane's voice starts to fill with emotion, but he continues. "I found a homeless shelter about two days after I left home. They never asked why I was there and I was given a bed. I went back to school, still in an arm cast, leg brace, bandages around my chest and stitches in my arms and face. But no one gave me any sympathy.

"I was given looks of pure hatred wherever I went. Everyone knew what happened in the locker room and thought I was the one that kissed Damien. The baseball team still tried to hurt me even more after what they did. They never got any punishment for beating me senseless, and I never tried to get them in any trouble."

"But didn't you want to get them in trouble after hurting you so badly? What about Damien?"

"I did want to get them in trouble, but at the same time I didn't want to be blamed for getting the baseball team suspended. I never talked to Damien again after that. But every time I saw him, I was reminded on how I let myself trust him, only to be betrayed by him. He looked like he didn't care and went on like I didn't even exist.

"Ever since then, I've come to hate almost every jock I've met. I stayed in the homeless shelter and my injuries got better over about two months. In April, I got my answer from Stanford and saw my window for escape. I kept my grades up and in early May, I asked the principal if I could graduate early and she accepted my request.

"She was one of the only people that saw I was a victim and not just some gay kid. She gave me my diploma and I left and haven't come back since. I left the homeless shelter in the middle of the night and went to a bus station not too far from the shelter. I paid for a ticket to Tulsa in cash so no one could find me if they wanted to.

"Before I left, I sent Damien one final text message. I told him I was leaving and that he wouldn't have to see me ever again. I told him that I had opened up to him, let my guard down because I thought he was who he said he was, but he lied to me and destroyed my miserable life. I told him I hated him. I threw my phone in a nearby river, got on the bus and left Dallas for good.

"When the bus made a stop in Oklahoma, I withdrew all the cash I had in my debit card, about five thousand dollars, and destroyed the card. I paid for another ticket to Stanford and arrived the next day. When I asked the admissions office if I could stay in a spare dorm until the start of the next school year, they said I could and I've been here ever since."

Zane finally lets out the sobs he must've been holding in since he first started his story. I wrap my arm around his shoulder and pull Zane into a soft hug. He hugs me back and cries into my shoulder, shaking as his tears pour out of him. "I'm so sorry, Zane," I say.

"It hurt so much, Eric. I trusted Damien and he made something like that happen to me. He made my life a living hell. He made me lose everything, even my parents. I came to a town I didn't know with nothing."

"But now you have something: me. Zane, I promise to never do something so horrible to you as long as I'm with you. I don't want you to experience that kind of thing ever again. I want to be with you. I want to protect and to be there for you whenever you need me. I want to be your boyfriend."

Zane clutches me even tighter and cries a little more into my shoulder. "I believe you, Eric. I want to be your boyfriend too..."

Zane lifts his head up a little and I look into his blue and black eyes, the blue filled with brilliance, the black taken over by wonder. I take my hand and carefully wipe Zane's eyes free of tears. I smile a little and Zane smiles back, the pure white of his perfect teeth flashing.

I move a little closer to Zane. "Can I...kiss you?"

Zane blushes a little and look back into my eyes. "Yes..."

I cup Zane's left cheek with my hand and move very slowly toward him, my heart beating faster than ever before. Zane's breath touches my face and he and I slowly close our eyes. The first graze of Zane's lips sends a jolt through my body. With one final inch, Zane's lips are on mine.

The pressure of Zane's soft lips causes heat to surge through me. I've kissed a few girls before, and they were okay. But with Zane, it feels...like I'm supposed to be kissing him, and I love it. Zane's fingertips press into my back and pull me a little closer to him, making the kiss even harder. Zane pulls me even further toward him and he and I fall onto my bed, our lips never separating. Zane's body fits perfectly under mine and I can feel the heat pulsating off of him.

Zane and I finally part after what feels like hours, both of us out of breath, our faces hot and our eyes fogged over and out of focus. I smile down at Zane and he smiles back at me. "Wow..." is all I can say.

"I was thinking the exact same thing," Zane says.

I give Zane a light kiss and sit back up, pulling him back up with me. There's a knock at the door and I look at Zane, who shrugs. "Come in," I call.

The door opens and Josh and Leo are standing in the doorway. "Is everything okay in here?" Leo asks.

I look at Zane and both of us smile. I wrap my arm around his waist and we look back at them. "I'd say...we're great."

Josh and Leo both smile. "So it's official?" Josh asks.

"It's official," says Zane. "Eric and I...are dating."

Josh and Leo both walk into the room and shut the door behind them. They suddenly slump over. "Finally!" says Leo. "Josh and I have been waiting for weeks for you two to get together!"

Zane's and my mouths drop simultaneously. "You guys knew?!" I ask.

"The guys on my team know!" says Josh. "They've been guessing it since they came by Leo and Zane's room a month ago!"

I feel my face redden and see Zane's is as red as mine feels. "Were we that obvious?" asks Zane.

"As obvious as Josh and I are," says Leo. "But don't worry. I don't think anyone else knows about it. The guys on the team can keep a secret and Josh and I won't tell anyone."

"You know what?" I say. "Since Zane's out, I'll be out with him. I want everyone to see that I'm dating this guy right here."

Zane smiles and I bend down and give him a small kiss. "So...when can we have a foursome?" Josh asks.

The room erupts in laughter. Zane's laughing the hardest I've ever heard him laugh. I've been at college for a little over a month. And in that month I've found out that I like guys and I've managed to get a boyfriend that I really like. My college future looks good so far...

 

RichardAdams

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