Hey everyone. RichardAdams here. Sorry about not posting last week. I was on vacation in Alaska and couldn't post because I was on a cruise ship and the wifi cost money to use and it was total shit. I'm sorry I couldn't let you all know about it.
Anyway, because of my unscheduled leave of absence, I have a little surprise for all of you. Because I didn't post my two chapters last week, I'm going to post four chapters this week: the one today, and the other three will be posted on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week. After that, I'm going back to posting every Monday and Thursday.
And I found out a little something when I was able to connect to the internet for a little while. During my vacation, Chapter 4 of 'Could I Be...?' became the top-rated story on the website. Words cannot express how I feel about this, but I can't take the credit for this. I owe this accomplishment to all of you. You were the ones that voted for my story, I just wrote it, and I thank you all so much for it. I would not be the writer I am today without your encouragement and support and I only wish I could thank you all in person. Thank you.
Finally, after a week of no chapters, here's the first in a week of new chapters: Chapter 5.
Now that I'm with Zane, everything about my life seems...a little better. In the two weeks since we've started dating, I've become a lot more focused on my schoolwork, I'm putting a lot more effort into my workouts, overall, I'm doing great. Zane seems a little brighter too. He still gets a bit nervous when he's around Josh's teammates, but he's talking to them a lot more and it's becoming easier for him to talk to them.
Zane and I keep our public displays of affection to a minimum, but I'm not afraid to give him a small kiss outside the finance department before he and I split up for morning classes. And surprisingly, no one seems to care whenever we kiss. The early days were the hardest, but as the days went by, it started becoming a lot easier.
I still haven't told my parents about this development, but I'm think I'm going to tell them when I head back home during Thanksgiving break. It'll be hard to do, but I need to tell them. But I'm not how they'll react when I tell that their only kid is gay. I really hope it doesn't end the same way it did for Zane.
We still haven't gone on a date yet, but that's about to change. I have a bit of a surprise for Zane, but I'm not sure he'll be too happy about it. I get back to the dorm rooms and knock on Zane's door. The door opens and while I'm expecting to meet a head of dark blue, black and white hair, I don't.
A head of dark purple hair with a few black streaks in it stands in the doorway. "Nice hair," I tell Zane.
He smiles and runs a hand over it. "Thanks. I just dyed it today. C'mon in." I walk into the room and Zane shuts the door behind him. I feel his arms warp around my waist and he presses himself against my back. "What's up?"
"My boyfriend's keeping me from moving, that's what's up." Zane laughs a bit and loosens his grip on me. I turn around and hold him around his shoulders and kiss him softly. "Do you have any plans tomorrow night?"
"Well, tomorrow's Saturday, so all I have work in the morning and early afternoon. But after that, I'm free. What did you have in mind?"
"You want to go on a date?"
Zane's eyebrows twitch up. "A date? I haven't gone on one in months, but yeah, I'd like to go out with you. Where were you planning on taking me?"
"Um...I'm not sure you'll like the location I picked."
Zane looks up at me in concern. "What is it?"
Zane's face falls. "You're taking me to a sports game?" he asks dryly.
"I'm taking you to a football game. It should be a lot of fun. I've only been out to a few games, but this is the first game I've seen where Josh is starting."
"Eric, you know how I feel about being around jocks and sports."
"I know, Zane. But I want to help you change that part of you. Do you only not like sports because of what happened to you in high school?" Zane nods after a few seconds. "Then I want to show you how much fun a sports game can be. I managed to get us some seats five rows from the field and we can see all of the action up close."
"But what if...people treat us like shit because two gay guys are watching a football game?"
"They won't treat us any differently from the rest of the crowd. Everyone knows about Leo and Josh's relationship, and Leo goes to every home game and comes out without ever having someone yell at him or try to hurt him. Granted he could kick anyone's ass who tried to hurt him, but no one's ever tried to hurt him."
"I-I don't know..."
I pull Zane a little closer to me. "Please Zane? I promise if you don't have a good time, you can choose what our next date will be like and we can do what ever you want."
Zane thinks about it for a second before smiling. "Okay, we can go to the game. But if I don't like it, get ready to go to the tattoo shop where I work. I'm thinking of getting a new tattoo and I'm going to want you to watch the needle going into my skin."
Oh, I REALLY hope he likes the game...
The next afternoon, I'm walking with Zane toward Stanford Stadium with several thousand other students. I managed to convince Zane to wear a Stanford Cardinal t-shirt. It's a lot different from what he normally wears, but I think it looks good on him. I don't want to lose him in the crowd, so I keep my arm around his waist.
There are a few guys with a good buzz going in the crowd, but they don't bug us, so we've cleared the first hurdle. We get to the stadium and have our tickets scanned and walk in. "How're you holding up so far?" I ask Zane.
"I'm still feeling pretty nervous. This is the first football game I've been to."
"But you're from Texas. Shouldn't you have been raised with a football in your hands?"
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm not the biggest guy around. So I wasn't really put into the football mix because of my size. But I've always had an admiration for baseball, even though my old bullies were the players."
"You love the sport but hated the guys that played?"
"Exactly. That's why I had that secret pitching setup. I saw my first game when I was 3 years old and I managed to create my setup when I was 7. I practiced every day and I got pretty good, but I kept my practice a secret from everybody. But I did tell my parents in the note I wrote before I left where they could find it if they wanted to see it. They'll see the dents I made in the piece of wood I threw the ball against from throwing so much.
"But with what they thought of me, they probably threw away all of my stuff and gutted my room. They must be acting like I didn't even exist."
Without warning, I hug Zane tightly. "Like I said before: it's your parent's loss that they let someone so wonderful go," I whisper into his ear.
Zane smiles up at me. "Thanks, Eric. Now buy me a hot dog."
I laugh and give Zane a small kiss, gaining a few glances in the process, along with a wolf whistle or two. I get Zane that hot dog he wanted and get one for myself, along with two sodas. After inching through the crowd for a few minutes, Zane and I get to our seats. "Who's playing against us?" Zane asks.
"USC. Both of them are undefeated, so this'll be a good game."
"There sure are a lot of people here,"
I look around and see almost 90% of the stadium is filled and the game doesn't start for a little while. Zane and I pass the time by eating our hot dogs and talking to each other. After a bit, the announcer calls the start of the game. There's a cloud of smoke to our left and the colors of cardinal red and white rush onto the field.
The crowd explodes into cheers and applause as The Cardinal takes the field. From here, I can see Josh's number 28, and a white 'Rusden' on the red jersey. From the right, another cloud of smoke appears and while the cardinal and white colors are there, they're mixed with gold. The USC team runs onto the field and the USC fans in the stadium cheer, but it's overtaken by the boos of the Stanford crowd.
Both teams take to their respective sides, but I notice something about Josh. He's facing the USC side of the field and it looks like he's making hand gestures. I look on the USC side and see a player doing the same thing, who suddenly takes his gut and hunches over, his shoulders quivering. Is he...laughing?
After the coin toss, Stanford chooses to receive the kickoff. "Do you know the rules of football?" I ask Zane.
"The basic stuff," he says, mouthful of hotdog. "I don't know the penalties and stuff like that, but I should be able to get all of it."
I take my arm and wrap it over Zane's shoulders and pull him a bit closer to me. "I really appreciate you taking this chance for me."
"What do you mean?"
"Coming to a football game. I know you aren't the biggest sports guy and have a long history of jocks being complete assholes to you, so this must be a big step for you. So, thank you for doing this for me."
Zane smiles. "If it's for you, I'll take that step."
The crowd suddenly cheers and I see the ball flying through the air, the game officially started. Stanford's kick returner catches it and starts running from the end zone. He doesn't make it to the fifteen-yard line before a USC gunner runs into the guy full speed, resulting in a loud thud that I can hear from my seat.
I hear a lot of pained 'oohs' come from all around me, but one is different from all the rest, and it's right next to me. "Oh shit! God that must've hurt so fucking bad!"
Zane has a giant grin on his face and his eyes are bright with excitement. "Was that you?" I ask, starting to smile.
His face suddenly turns red. "S-Sorry. I just get...really excited whenever I watch a sports game. That's a reason why I don't go to them, along with the bullying history. It's because I feel like I'll embarrass myself with all my screaming and cheering..."
I laugh to myself and kiss the side of Zane's head. "You're amazing, you know that?"
His embarrassed face smiles up at me and he kisses me. "I know."
He and I sit back and watch the rest of the game unfold.
A little over four hours later, the game ends with Stanford winning 24-21, Stanford scoring a final second field goal to break the tie. Josh did pretty well, scoring a forty-seven yard touchdown. I noticed him signaling to that same guy on the USC team the entire game, which only made me more confused.
But while I was watching the game, I paid more attention to Zane. He was amazing to watch, mostly because of all the energy he put into his shouting and cheering. A lot of other people around us took notice and tried to scream as loudly as he did, but none of them were even close.
I keep my arm around Zane's waist as we leave the stadium. "So did you have fun?" I ask, already knowing the answer.
Zane smiles and puts his arm around my waist. "Yeah. More fun than I thought I would've had."
I glance over at my watch and see it's only a little after 8:00. "The night is still young. You want to go stop by a café for a cup of coffee or something?"
"Wow, two dates in one night. You sure aren't pulling any stops, are you?"
I laugh and Zane and I walk a little and find the campus café. There are a few people wearing Stanford t-shirts and jerseys sitting at some tables, but the place is still pretty open. I order Zane and myself two decaf coffees and pay for them. We walk back outside and take a seat at an open table, the air very comfortable.
Zane and I start to sip our drinks when I notice that Zane suddenly looks upset. "Hey, what's wrong?" I ask.
He glances up for a second then looks back at his coffee, a sad smile on his face. "Oh...I was just...remembering how my first date with Damien was just like how we are now."
Damien. I set my coffee down and look at Zane. "Do you miss him?"
"I miss the time we spent together. He and I had a lot of fun whenever we went out on dates and I thought he and I were really connecting."
"Do you...still like him?"
Zane head shoots up and he looks right at me. "No! No, I don't like him anymore. I'm sorry I brought him up, Eric."
"It's okay. I know you and Damien had a history together, although the history didn't end too well. Do you want to talk about him a little more? I'm always here to listen."
Zane shakes his head. "I'm done with that chapter of my life. I'm done with Damien, my high school, my parents and Texas in general. There are too many bad memories there, and the number of good memories I've made here outweighs the bad memories by a hundred times."
I smile and reach across the table and take Zane's hand. "I'm glad to see you're moving on. Just remember: as long as you and I are together, I'll be there for you."
Zane smiles back and scoots his chair out. "I need to run to the bathroom. I'll be back in a minute."
He walks back inside the café, leaving me alone at the table. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone and start searching the Internet. Feeling curious, I decide to get to know a little more about where Zane came from. After a search, I pull up the city of Dallas' home page and start scrolling through the page.
I stop scrolling when I something catches my eye. Moving a little back up the page, I see a photo of what appears to be a baseball team celebrating. Above the photo it reads:
'Hughes High School Takes State Championship! Damien Branson With Game Winning Home Run!'
My blood runs cold at the name. In the middle of the photo is a guy who seems to be Damien, smiling brightly and holding his teammates. The thing I notice is that he looks a lot like me: same height, same build, same hair, he even has my dimples! I hear a chair in front of me move and I see Zane sitting back down. "You okay?" he asks.
"Um...I don't know." I turn my phone to him. "Is that Damien?"
Zane looks at the photo and his eyes go wide. "How did you find that?"
"I was looking at the Dallas city main page and this photo came up. It looks like your high school won states in baseball." I set my phone down and look back up. "Zane, I want to ask you something and I want you to answer me honestly."
"Do you see me as a new Damien?"
Zane's face drains of all color. "Why would you think that, Eric?"
"Look at Damien and me. We could practically be long lost twins. We're both baseball players, we're both pitchers, his nose even looks the same as mine, and mine's been broken before. So...do you?"
Zane looks down at his warm coffee for a few seconds before taking my hand like I did his. "Eric, you and Damien may look incredibly similar, but you two are completely different. He only cared about how he looked to other people. You care both about yourself and the people around you.
"He was a complete asshole to a lot of people. You're nice and considerate to everyone, except for a few early occasions. Damien's smile always made me feel like he was hiding something. Your smile makes me feel safe and that I can trust you with anything. He wasn't perfect. To me, Eric, you are perfect."
I feel myself smile at Zane's words. "You really think of me that way?" I ask.
"Of course I do. Eric, you're the first guy I've ever liked this much."
"And you're the first person I've ever liked, Zane." Zane and I smile at each other for a minute. "Can I look at this for a minute more?" I ask pointing at my phone.
"Go ahead. I need some of my coffee."
I look back at my phone and Zane sips his coffee. As I'm reading the web page on my phone, something makes me stop for the second time. It's another photo with a headline above it.
'Local Teenage Boy Still Missing After Five Months'
The photo is different, but it's still the same guy. "Zane, look at this."
I turn my phone to him and he literally turns and spits the coffee he has in his mouth out. "You're kidding," he says.
The photo is of Zane, but he looks so much different. There aren't any piercings in his ears or eyebrows, his hair is a dark blonde and not shaved on the sides, and none of his tattoos are showing, but it's definitely Zane. "This is a missing persons report," I say. "It was filed on May 7th."
"That's the day after I left," Zane says, his eyes still in shock. "And that photo's from my senior picture. I took out all my piercings, hid my tattoos and dyed my hair a natural color."
"Local teenager, whose name we're told is Zane, has been missing for over five months now," I say, quoting the report. "After receiving his high school graduation diploma early, Zane disappeared from Dallas. His cell phone was found in a small river about two hundred yards from a bus station, so it is believed that he bought a bus ticket and left the city for unknown reasons.
"Shannon Wright, the principal of Hughes High School, where Zane had attended, had this to say: 'Zane was bullied horribly by the majority of the baseball team and had been ostracized by much of the student population because of his homosexuality. It made me feel horrible that I couldn't do a thing to help him, especially after how the baseball team assaulted him. But it was either do nothing, or suspend the entire baseball team and face the backlash of dozens of parents. I deeply regret the choice I made.'"
I stop for a second and look at Zane, who is just staring down at his coffee. "Do you want me to keep going?" I ask.
"I need to hear this, Eric. Please keep reading."
I look back down at my phone. "None of the bus station attendants working on the night of Zane's disappearance remember seeing him, but from video footage taken from the bus station, it shows a hooded figure paying for a ticket in cash and moving off screen. It is assumed the hooded figure is Zane.
"The bus station has no record of what ticket the hooded figure purchased because the ticket was paid for in cash. The day after the ticket purchase, a cash withdrawal was made in Tulsa, Oklahoma at a gas station. The card belonged to Zane and all five thousand dollars on the card was taken out of Zane's bank account.
"There was no footage of Zane at the gas station because the security cameras were in the process of being repaired and the withdrawal was made during the time the cameras were down. The camera in the ATM in the gas station was covered with what appeared to be a hand, so there is no information as to who made the withdrawal. It is unknown what happened after that, but it is assumed that Zane is either in the state of Oklahoma or bought another bus ticket and is currently in locations unknown.
"The Hughes High School baseball team won the state championship this year, but much of the seniors on the team were not allowed to walk at graduation due to the bullying they caused Zane, but still received their diplomas. The school has received a large amount of heated mail, the administration criticized for letting the bullying of Zane go unpunished.
"Several teachers and administrative staff were fired when asked if Zane had come to them about the bullying he'd been receiving, all of them saying he had come to them for help but none of them doing anything about it. Principal Wright has chosen to resign as principal as atonement for letting Zane suffer for so long.
"News of Zane's disappearance has spread to New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, but no leads have come up. If you have any information regarding Zane's whereabouts, please call the number listed below. Anonymous calls are also accepted."
Zane hasn't moved an inch and is still staring at his coffee. "How do you feel?" I ask, taking his hand again.
"To be honest? I'm glad this all happened. The baseball team finally got what they deserved, the teachers I begged help from lost their jobs for not doing what they were supposed to be doing and people are finally starting to notice me as a real person."
"So...what do you want to do?"
"I...really don't know. If I go back, I won't have anywhere to go but the homeless shelter. And I'm happy at Stanford, the happiest I've been in a really long time. My classmates admire my artwork and don't care that I'm gay, I have Josh and Leo as great friends, and I have you, Eric, for a boyfriend. So...I'm going to go on like you and I never read that report."
I smile and rub Zane's hand with my thumb. "You want to head back to the dorm?" I ask.
Zane and I chug the rest of our coffees, burning our tongues in the process, and walk back to Florence Moore Hall, hand in hand. We walk back in and find Charles standing outside the D.A. office, locking the door. "Evening, boy," he says.
"For the third time, Charles, my name is Eric," I say.
"Also for the third time, boy, I'll keep that in mind." I roll my eyes and Charles looks at my hand in Zane's. "What's going on between you two?"
"Um...Zane here is my boyfriend..."
Charles stares at us with a hard look in his eyes before laughing. "Oh my God, that's a story for my grandchildren! A boy that didn't want to sleep in the same room as a homosexual is now sleeping with one!"
I feel myself turn a light shade of pink while Zane turns a dark shade of red. "Um...we haven't slept together, sir," says Zane.
"You get my point, Zane," Charles replies.
"Oh, come on!" I say. "You call Zane by his first name but all I get is 'boy!'"
"I think 'boy' suits you pretty well," says Zane.
"Don't back him up on this!" I say to him.
Charles just laughs at our banter. "I like this setup! I need to get to bed. Don't damage the walls when the bed you're fucking on shakes, rattles and rolls!"
He practically bounces down the hallway, leaving me and Zane feeling very embarrassed. We head upstairs and I unlock my door. When Zane I walk in, we find Josh and Leo sitting on Josh's bed, but also a third guy I've never seen before sitting in Josh's desk chair, his feet propped on the end of Josh's bed.
He has short blonde hair with fairly long legs and arms that are ripped beyond belief. While Josh is wearing the cardinal and whites of his football warm-ups, this guy is wearing cardinal and gold warm-ups. He's smiling along with Josh and Leo, who hear me and Zane walk in. "Hey, guys," says Josh. "There's someone I'd like you to meet. This is my longtime friend, Mark Presley. Mark, the tall one is Eric Swanson and the tattooed one is Zane Quinn."
Mark smiles over at us and stands up. "So you two are the newest gay couple in my list of gay couples I know," he says. "Mark Presley. Nice to meet you both."
He extends his hand and Zane and I both shake it. "So you know about us and are okay with it?" Zane asks Mark.
"You're the sixth gay couple I know. If I weren't okay with it, I wouldn't be in the same room as Josh and Leo."
"You were the one Josh was doing hand signals to during the game, aren't you?" I ask.
Josh and Mark both laugh. "Mark and I have been doing that since we were in the second grade," says Josh. "It's kind of like our own secret language, but neither of us talk." He looks at Mark and flaps his arms around and touches various parts of his upper body. Mark does the same after Josh finishes. "Yeah, I know. I think they're cool too."
Leo, Zane and I are all incredibly confused, but Mark just smiles. "I was just telling Josh that I think Zane's tattoos were awesome," he says.
Zane smiles shyly at the compliment. "Hey, Zane," says Leo. "Do you mind spending the night in here? Josh and I are kind of hoping to catch up with Mark a little before he heads back to L.A. tomorrow."
"I'm okay with it," says Zane. "Let me just get some stuff from our room."
Zane leaves the room and closes the door behind him. "So have you guys had a foursome yet?" asks Mark.
Josh, Leo and I all smack our foreheads at the same time, making Mark laugh like a hyena. Zane comes back with some clothes and a few toiletries and Josh and Leo stand up with Mark. "If you need us, we'll be playing Call of Duty in Leo's and Zane's room," says Leo.
"Nice meeting you guys, again," says Mark.
Zane and I wave and they close the door. I stretch my arms above my head and walk over to my dresser, yawning after a long day. "You want to sleep in Josh's bed?" I ask Zane as I take off my cap and start to slip my shirt off.
"Actually, can I sleep in your bed?" Zane asks.
"Sure. I can spend the night in Josh's bed."
I toss my shirt on the floor and start to walk over to Josh's bed. "No, I mean...can I sleep in your bed...with you?"
I look back at Zane and see he's incredibly red, but I smile. "If that's what you want, then yeah. You can sleep with me. I'll be a tight fit though."
"We can push the beds together. It'll make it a queen-sized bed. That should be enough room to barely fit both of us."
I grab the underside of my bed and pull it toward the middle of the room. I do the same for Josh's bed, being careful as I pull the bed past Josh's guitar (I can't afford to pay for repairs again) and press it again my bed. "Wow," I hear Zane whisper.
"You're so...beautiful. Your muscles are all perfect, but they aren't gigantic and disgusting like a bodybuilder's."
I smile and flex a little for Zane, which makes him even redder. "Okay," I say. "I need to get ready for bed. I'll be back in a few minutes."
I grab a few things and head across the hall to the bathroom in my jeans and shoes, leaving my shirt behind. As I'm brushing my teeth, Zane comes into the bathroom wearing a grey tank top and black sweatpants. He walks up to the sink next to me and starts brushing his own teeth.
Even in sweatpants, he's still sexy. He and I finish washing up and head back to the room together. As soon as the door's closed, I grab the button of my jeans and drop my pants to the floor, leaving me only in my boxer-briefs. "I hope you don't mind," I say, "but I sleep in nothing but my underwear."
"That's okay. I sleep only in a tank top and my boxers."
He walks over to the joined bed and slips out of his sweat pants, exposing his tattooed legs. My heart rate increases as I see Zane stripping down. I shake myself out of my daydream and go to turn off the light, darkening the room. Zane lifts the covers on both beds and he and I fall in, covering us both.
I turn over to face Zane and see he's already looking at me, his blue eye shining through the darkness of the room and the black eye mixing with the shadows. He moves a little closer to me and I wrap my arms around his waist, pressing him against me. Zane takes a hand and runs it over the light hairs on my chest and I grip his hip even harder.
Zane takes his other hand and rubs my right cheek, making me smile. I lean a bit forward and kiss Zane, his hot lips pressing against mine. As I'm kissing Zane, I feel something wet slide onto my nose. I open my eyes and see tears running from Zane's eyes. "Zane, why're you crying?"
He sniffs his nose a little before looking back at me. "Because...you just make me so fucking happy, Eric. I've never felt this strongly about anyone before and it both excites and...terrifies me. I'm excited for what's going to happen in the future with us, but I'm also scared about it all falling apart and that I'll lose you..."
I kiss Zane without warning and wipe his eyes dry. "Zane, I like you and I never want to leave you. I know we've only been together for about two weeks, but I feel the same way about you that you feel about me. I'm scared too because I've never been in a relationship with a guy before. But we can work together with this, taking it slow."
Zane nods and kisses me again. "Is there something more you want to talk about?" I ask Zane. "I can see something's bothering you."
"It's just...I can't stop thinking about home. How I caused the baseball team to not walk at graduation, how I got a lot of teachers fired, how I sent police on a manhunt they'll never finish, how disappointed I made my parents feel..."
"Zane," I interrupt. "None of that was your fault. You were just being yourself and it's everyone else's fault. The baseball team deserved even worse than what they got, but they paid for what they did to you, even if it was something small like not being able to walk at graduation.
"Your teachers should have done more to help you and they should have had their jobs taken from them a long time ago. Dallas drove you away and it's their own fault that police in seven states are looking for someone they'll never find. And don't you dare say you were a disappointment to your parents.
"From what I've heard you say about them, they only care about how other people see them and didn't want a gay son destroying that image. They're horrible people that are incapable of loving anyone. I'm sorry I had to say that, but it's true. Zane, you're so much better than what everyone thought of you before.
"You have a gift that can take someone's breath away with just a brush stroke or a charcoal line. You're a smart and loving guy that likes to see other people happy. You're a guy that loves to laugh and is passionate about so many things. You're the most beautiful guy I've ever seen in my life and I'm lucky to be with you."
Zane sobs a few more times and I hold his head against my shoulder. "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me..." he cries. "And I'm lucky to have you, Eric. Thank you so much..."
I lift Zane's head up and dry his eyes again and smile at him, which he returns with his own. Zane and I kiss one more time before I feel sleep starting to take us over. "Goodnight, Zane," I whisper.
Zane's deep breathing fills the room and his arms stay tightly wrapped underneath my arms. I kiss the top of his head and let myself drift off to sleep with the most beautiful guy I know perfectly fitted in my chest.