Hi everyone. Just a quick update. I think I'm finally getting back on track in regard to my writing. I'm still not as fast as I used to be, but I think I'm getting closer. I've started working on my next story 'My Secret' with a bit of free time and I've come to figure out something with it: I'm worried.
In case some of you have forgotten, 'My Secret' is a superhero story because it's what the majority of you wanted. But as I've started to write it, I've found out it's tougher than I originally thought it would be. Superhero stories are very difficult to write, mainly because you have to visually paint a picture in the reader's mind through nothing but words alone.
I'm still going to stick with the story, thought, and I'm going to work my hardest with it. And don't think that having this on my mind will distract me at all from 'Is It Possible...?' This story is still my main focus at the moment with my writing. I guess that's all I have to say. Thank you again, everyone. As always, emails and comments are always read and appreciated. I hope you enjoy Chapter 12 of "Is It Possible...?'
It's about three weeks after the wedding and right now, everything's going great in the new year. The Kings are still dominating the Western Conference, Keith's therapy is going really well, and Greg and I are fantastic. We've managed to sneak a few dates in at each other's apartments over the last few weeks and they've been really nice. But the sex is still fucking amazing.
It's almost like Greg has a guide to gay sex burned in his mind because he helps me through some things step by step. It was really awkward at first when I tried to suck his dick for the first time because he was talking the entire time and I had to pause every five seconds. But we managed to get it done and we're still working on it. Practice does make perfect after all.
It's now the middle of January and I'm so excited that I may involuntarily piss myself at some point. The Our Name Is... concert is tomorrow night and I can't wait. It's pretty much been the only thing on my mind for the past month (besides hockey, my family and friends, and Greg of course).
But there's also been another thing on my mind. While at Eric and Zane's wedding, I had this dream after Greg and I had sex for the first time. I dreamed that I heard Greg tell me he loved me. And when I woke up from the dream, I felt great from hearing those words. But...I don't know if they're true or not.
Does Greg love me? But a better question would be do I love Greg? I mean I know I really enjoy being with him, talking with him, holding him, kissing him, and I would do anything to make sure he's safe and sound. But does all of that mean I love him? I don't know. I wish I did though.
I sigh to myself and take a quick drink of water. "Change it up!"
The sudden call jolts me out of my daydream and I grab my stick and vault over the wall of the bench along with a few of my teammates. I glance back at Greg, standing there in his usual black suit with a determined look on his face. He gives me a nod before going back to staring out at the ice.
I really wish I knew if I love Greg or not. But if I knew he loved me or not, that might help make a difference.
"Okay, guys," Greg says. "The plane will leave in a little while and it's a three hour flight back to Los Angeles. Practice tomorrow is at 8:00 and we're ending it at 2:00. Then we have the weekend off. Enjoy it. Practice on Monday is at 8:00 also, so be ready for that, and our next game is on Tuesday."
I nod with the team as Greg takes his usual seat next to me. In no time, we're in the air back to L.A. We lost tonight's game to the Oilers in a shootout, but I'm not upset about it. Win some lose some. We'll get them next time. And our standing in the Eastern Conference is still at the top, so one loss won't change that.
Finding myself bored with the book I'm reading on my tablet, I look around the plane and find everyone else either asleep, on their phones or tablets, or talking to each other. And the man next to me is focused on the notebook in his lap, writing new game strategies. I set my tablet down and face him.
He notices me looking at him and sets his pen down. "What's up?" he asks.
"We need to talk."
Greg's face fills with concern. "Four words that should never be put together. Everything okay?"
"That wasn't a very convincing 'yeah.'"
I slump a bit in my seat. "Back in Lake Tahoe last month, after we first...you know...did anything happen after I went to sleep?"
I see Greg's face lose a few shades of color, telling me that something did happen after I fell asleep. Glancing around to make sure no one's watching, I rest my hand on top of Greg's. "You know you can tell me anything, right?" I say, my voice low. "All I ask of you is that you be honest with me."
Greg nods and takes a breath. "Um...yeah. Something did happen after you fell asleep." I stare down at Greg, waiting for his answer. "I...uh...got a little sick from the rich food from dinner and threw up in the bathroom. I was hoping I didn't wake you."
"You didn't. And are you sure? I had this weird dream after I passed out and thought maybe you said something that made me dream it."
"Uh...nope. Didn't say a thing other than 'Oh God' from the vomiting."
I stare at Greg for a second before taking my hand away. "Okay. Just making sure. Anyway, I also wanted to ask if you wanted to come over to my parents' house after practice tomorrow. We kind of arranged to hang out and have dinner together before we leave for the concert."
Greg takes the back of his hand and wipes his brow, which confuses me for a second, but I dismiss it. "Yeah, that sounds good. I haven't seen your parents and siblings since a month ago, so it would be good to see them again."
"Yeah, it would." I lick my lips, trying to get the next words out. "And uh...I kind of...no I want to...I want to tell them." Greg looks up at me, eyes wide. "I want to tell them about me. About us."
Greg looks down at his notebook for a few seconds and I sweat as he does it. "Actually, Tanner," he finally says. "I think it would be a good thing to tell your family."
Okay, definitely wasn't expecting that. "Really?"
"Yeah. I mean they're your parents and siblings after all. I think that they deserve to know about you and us. You've already told about a hundred other people who aren't your family. So why not tell them?"
Huh. Maybe he's mellowed out a bit about me coming out since what happened at the wedding. "Um...I thought you would say something else like 'it could risk your career,'" I say.
"It's different when it comes to friends and family. With friends, you run the risk of one of them accidently telling someone about you or one of them not liking the fact and mouthing off to someone about it. With your family, you also run the risk of one of them not liking the fact, but most of the time they wouldn't tell anyone about it.
"And you were right before, Tanner. Sometimes, it's better to risk it rather than hide. So if you want to tell your family, go right for it. And know that I'll be right there with you when you do it."
Greg gives me a warm smile. And after a second of getting past the surprise, I manage to smile back. "You're awesome, you know that?"
"I do. I think some of your cockiness is rubbing off on me."
"Don't put 'cock' and rub' in the same sentence. It gives me ideas. Especially since I finally learned about the mile high club."
Greg punches my shoulder before going back to his notebook, smirking out the corner of his mouth. Glancing around one more time, I see no one is looking or listening. Moving quickly, I move my hand underneath the notebook and give Greg's crotch a firm grope. He manages to stifle a yelp before I pull my hand away.
He glares up at me, his face a bit pink. But I just smile innocently before going back to my tablet. Greg continues glaring for a minute before getting back to his notebook. But glancing over at him one more time, I see the notebook is a little raised off of his lap now.
Another day, another long practice. We're back in the locker room, having just finished practicing. I start pulling off my pads and placing them on the floor. "Nice practice, Tanner," Gunnar says.
"You too, Gunnar. Sorry about that hard check."
"Ah, no worries. I barely felt it."
I'm not sure if that was an insult or not. "Jesus, Alex! Put your skates away!"
Looking at the other side of the locker room, I see several of my teammates plugging their noses and keeping a fair distance away from Alex. "Alex," I call over to him. "When was the last time you washed your skates?"
He thinks about it for a second. "How long ago was September?"
Everyone moves a step or ten further away from Alex. "Nice practice, team," Greg says as he walks into the locker room. "Now that..." Greg suddenly freezes and I actually see some of his hair stand on end. "Okay, why does it smell even worse than usual in here?"
"Ask Alex," Felix says. "He has not washed his skates in four months."
"I do not wash them because I have come to believe that washing them will bring the team bad luck," Alex retorts.
"We all have our superstitions, Alex," Greg says, holding some of his sweatshirt over his nose and mouth. "But if those superstitions come to affect the team through what smells like a garbage truck exploded in a toxic waste dump, then I think it's time for a wash. Either take them home and wash them, or bring them with you into the showers."
"Yes, Coach Natick."
Alex takes his skates and stuffs them into his bag. While some of the smell still lingers, it's not as terrible as it was a second ago. "Anyway," Greg continues. "The weekend is free for all of us, but please don't slack off and just sit on your asses the whole time. Take tonight off and stick to the gym for the weekend before practice on Monday. Hit the showers."
Greg heads to his office and we all finish taking off our practice uniforms and heading to the shower room. It's just like the showers back in any high school: a lot of showerheads and zero room for privacy. Getting to a showerhead, I turn on the water and try to get through my shower as quickly as possible.
I've never been one for showering for more than five minutes with other people (save for Greg). So I'm usually one of the first people done when it comes to showering. But most of the team likes to take their time and talk to one another. It makes me wonder sometimes how guys can actually keep their eyes on another guys face in the showers when their respective dicks are not even three feet away.
Anyway, I've finished and I shut off my showerhead. I grab my towel off my hook and wrap it around my waist and start to head back to the locker room. "Ian's got a hard on!"
Spinning back around, I find Ken, Bobby, and the youngest member of the team, Ian Crossrick, between them. The kid's just 18 years old and he finished high school early so he could join the NHL. He's actually only been with the team for about a month. Mark and Shawn (still not used to that) signed him on when we realized we needed another guy on offense.
The kid's insanely fast, a time of 1.83 seconds from blue line to blue line (it's about sixty feet), and is actually kind of short for a hockey player. He's barely five foot nine, also making him the shortest guy on the team (and one of the shortest in the NHL). He's a handsome guy with a strong face, short light brown hair, a very fit body, and baby blue eyes.
But a problem with Ian is that he's insanely shy. I sometimes feel bad because he sometimes has to put up with some short jokes from the team and he's too meek to respond most of the time. But if he's teased with stuff about short jokes, this isn't going to be pretty. "Geez, Ian," Bobby says. "Didn't think you found us that attractive."
"He must've sprouted wood when you bent over to wash your legs, Bobby," Ken says.
I see Ian press his eyes closed tightly and he looks to the floor. He looks like he wishes he could just disappear. "Doesn't look like that puppy's going down any time soon," Bobby goads. "Just hope he doesn't jerk off in here."
"P-Please stop..." Ian barely whispers.
"Aw, the kid wants us to lay off," Ken says. "Maybe it's so he can watch us wash off again."
"At least he's got a dick twice the size of either of you."
Every eye in the room turns to me. "What was that, Tanner?" Bobby says.
"I think you heard me, Bobby. Even from here, I can see that dick is almost ten inches. While you and Ken barely reach...oh, five or six inches. With dicks like that, it makes me wonder how you can satisfy either of your wives when Ian there has enough to satisfy both of them."
The room fills with snickers and 'oohs.' "And frankly," I continue, "we're all guys. We all get the occasional boner. And everybody in here as at one time or another sprouted wood in the shower, myself included. So either lay off Ian for getting something every guy can't avoid, or I won't be afraid to send a few dick pics of the two of you and send them to EPSN and TMZ."
Ken and Bobby both turn bright red and stay completely silent. With that, I turn and leave the shower and head to my locker. Not wanting to talk to anyone else, I throw on my clothes as quickly as I can and make my way for Greg's office. Walking in without knocking, I find him sitting on his couch with his phone in his hand.
He hears me walk in and I shut the door. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah just some shit went down in the shower."
"Did it involve Ian?"
I set my bag down and take a seat next to Greg. "How'd you guess?"
"Ian came to me last week and told me that he was being harassed by some of the guys. I talked to the guys he called out and warned them about picking on Ian again. It's like high school all fucking over again, only I'm able to hold my own now." He slips his phone in his pocket and looks over at me. "So what happened?"
"Ah, Ken and Bobby were poking fun at Ian for getting a boner in the shower. So I laid into them for having pretty average dicks whereas Ian is pushing ten inches."
Greg's eyebrows rise. "TEN inches?" I nod. "Guess your experience with dick is making looking at them easier, Tanner."
I punch Greg in the shoulder and we share a laugh. "Now Ken and Bobby are probably feeling pretty butt hurt from having their dicks called out."
I shake my head a bit. "I can't say. I mean the kid's 18. When I was his age...wow that makes me sound old. When I was his age, I never let anybody know when I was upset. And he's in a place where he's the youngest out of everyone on the team, so he may be trying to find his place here."
"I can understand that. I think I'll talk to him again on Monday to see how he's holding up."
I nod and stand up off the couch. "You ready to head out?"
"Yup. If you want, we can stop by your place and you can drop off your bag. But I'm going to ask that we stop by my apartment so I can quickly change out of my sweatshirt and work jeans."
"No problem. My place, your place, then off to my parents for an afternoon of relaxing before we head to the concert."
Greg and I grab our stuff and start to head for the exit. As we get closer, I start to feel like I've forgotten something. Feeling my pants, I realize I don't have my phone. "Hey, hold on, I left my phone in my locker."
"Okay. I'll just wait outside your car."
Greg continues walking to the exit while I head back to the locker room. I turn the corner to the locker room and am nearly bowled over by a guy half a foot shorter than me. Ian rushes down the hallway, staring at the floor and disappearing from sight. What the hell? I walk into the locker room and find most of the team getting dressed.
Immediately, I walk over to Ken and Bobby. "What the hell was that?" I ask, glaring at the two.
The two exchange a look. "What do you mean?" Ken asks.
"Ian practically ran out of here like the locker room was on fire. I want to know what the fuck you two did after I left."
"Hey, man, we didn't do anything after you were done in the shower," Bobby says. "Ian finished up his shower about a minute or two after you left. Ken and I were going to apologize for being dicks to him, but he was out before we could get the chance."
"It is true, priyatel," Vladimir tells me. "Bobby and Ken did plan to apologize to Ian after they were finished in the shower."
"And we all told them to stop giving Ian such a hard fucking time," Bradley says.
I look back at Ken and Bobby and find no signs of them lying. "If I find either of you, or anyone here, harassing another teammate, I will not hesitate to put you in your place. Get it?" Everyone in the room nods. "Good." I walk to my locker and grab my phone before slamming it shut. "See you all next week."
With my phone in hand, I leave the locker room for the second time today. I make it to the front door of the building and walk out into the cool January air. As I walk in the direction of where I parked, I hear a voice from the side of the sports center. "I miss you too, Vincent."
Stopping for a second, I slowly creep over to the corner of the center and poke my head around. Standing there is Ian, phone pressed to his ear and staring down at the ground. "This month has been the longest of my life," he continues. "I miss my family, I miss our friends, and I miss you most of all."
I'm going to take a chance and assume Vincent isn't a nickname for a girl. "I can't wait until you're finally accepted at USC. Yeah, it's going to be a little tough getting used to our new schedules, but I know we can get through it. Want to video chat when you get home? I really want to talk to you face to face instead of over a phone.
"Great. I'll call you again a little later. I love you too, Vincent."
Ian hangs up his phone and stares at it for a second, a longing look in his face, but a happy one. He puts his phone in his pocket and secures his bag and starts walking this way. Doing my best to look casual, I pull my phone out of my own pocket and pretend to be texting someone.
Ian steps out from behind the corner and takes notice of me. He proceeds to jump a foot in the air in surprise. "Jesus Christ, Tanner. Scared the crap out of me..."
"Sorry about that."
Ian quickly looks to the concrete. "Um...h-how long have you been standing there?"
The look on Ian's face tells me he's scared I overheard his conversation with Vincent. "Ah, I just stopped for a second to reply to a text from my sister. I was on my way to my car and have only been here for about ten or fifteen seconds."
While he looks a bit more relieved, he can't seem to look up at me. I put my phone into my pocket. "How're you doing, Ian?"
"I uh...I-I'm okay..."
I take my hand and carefully place it on his shoulder. He involuntarily flinches at the gesture. "Ian, remember what I told you on the first day you started with the Kings? I'm your captain and you can talk to me about anything, anything at all. So what's on your mind?"
Ian glances up at me for a second before taking a seat on the edge of a raised concrete planter. "I'm homesick, alright?" he finally says.
I take a seat next to him. "I can understand that. Being alone for the first time in your life, not having your parents to rely on, it's a lot to get used to. Do you have anyone you miss most of all?"
His cheeks flush a little, but I pretend not to notice. "I miss my family a lot. My friends too. Before I left Pennsylvania, my town threw this huge party for me. There were so many people there who cared about me and wished me the best when I finally joined the Kings. And now...I miss every single one of them."
Taking a bit of a chance, I look down at Ian. "Anyone special you really miss?"
The blush in Ian's cheeks burns a little hotter at the question. "Um...t-there's someone back home...that I really miss and I wish they were here with me."
Judging by the way Ian's fidgeting, I can tell he's insanely uncomfortable. "I'm sure they miss you just as much as you miss them. You must really care for them."
For the first time, Ian's mouth turns up to a smile. "I do. I really do love him..."
Ian's body stiffens at his slipup. He looks like he's about to jump up and run away. "Is he a nice guy?"
His head snaps to me and there's a look of pure fear in his eyes. "W-What...?"
"Your boyfriend. Is he a nice guy?"
And we're back to complete silence on Ian's part. He clears his throat. "Y-Yeah..." he barely whispers. "H-He's amazing to me..."
Geez. This kid looks like you could knock him over with a feather. "Ian, if you think I have a problem with you dating a guy, you're dead wrong. You can date or love whomever you want and if anyone says that's wrong, then they can shove it. As long as you and your boyfriend care for each other, then that's all that matters."
Ian still looks scared, not that I can blame him. "And you aren't alone in the locker room, Ian. This team is a family, and we would never push someone away for being who they are. You already know Coach Natick's gay, and we all think he's an amazing coach. No one cared about his sexuality when he came out to all of us, and we still don't.
"All we care about is if he can coach us, and he's proved that time and time again. You don't need to tell anyone if you don't want to and I won't tell a single person about it. As long as you do something for me."
Ian looks worried. I glance around and see no one's within hearing distance. I lean in close to Ian. "You keep this a secret for me. You and I play for the same team, but you and I are also ON the same team."
Leaning back, I find the thought process going through Ian's head. The light blub finally appears after a few seconds and he looks shocked beyond belief. "Y-You're...gay?" he quietly says.
"I am. I've been secretly dating...this amazing guy who I can't stop thinking about no matter what I do, and I haven't done a damn thing to try and not think about him. I care about him and I think that he cares just as much about me."
I look back down at Ian and see he has a look on his face that looks similar to the one I feel on mine. "You're just like how I feel about my boyfriend Vincent. He means the world to me and it's been so hard to be apart from him. We've been dating for almost two years now and I'm hoping that when he finishes his senior year at our high school, he'll be accepted at USC and we can move in together.
"We're only out to our families and really close friends and they've all been sworn to secrecy until I'm ready to come out in the NHL. In my opinion, I'm not even close to ready. But I think I will at some point."
I give Ian a pat on the shoulder, similar to the one I gave him before. Only this time he doesn't flinch. "So, we keep each other a secret for the time being?" I ask.
"Sounds good, Tanner. And...thanks for what you did in the shower. I wanted to stand up for myself to Bobby and Ken, but I couldn't get my words out."
"You're welcome. And don't worry about Bobby and Ken. They can come off a little strong at times, but they're good guys who like to have a little fun with newbies. And I gave them and a team a talking to after you left the locker room. I don't think anyone will be messing with you or that monster between your legs again."
And a whole lot of red quickly appears in Ian's cheeks. "Hey, be proud of it," I say. "Probably the biggest one on the team coming from the smallest. Penis envy will be pretty strong in the locker room from now on."
Ian laughs. A sudden horn honk comes from in front of me and I find Greg in my car. More specifically, I see him in the driver's seat of my car. If there's one thing I don't like, it's people driving my car. "I thought I told you about people driving my car, Greg," I say.
"Hey, you were taking too long and sitting in the car was boring. By the way, I borrowed your keys when you weren't looking."
I roll my eyes and stand back up, Ian standing up too. "I'll see you next week, Ian," I say. "And remember. If you need someone to talk to, don't hesitate to come to me. Okay?"
Ian nods. "Thanks, Tanner."
Giving him a smile, I turn and walk over to my car, giving Greg a face that tells him to get out of the driver's face. He rolls his eyes and steps out before I climb in. I give Ian another wave and Greg and I head out. "Everything okay with Ian?" Greg asks me.
I glance in my rear-view mirror and find Ian walking to his car. "Yup. He's good."
Almost an hour later, I'm sitting and waiting outside of Greg's apartment building. He went up a little while ago to shower and change before we drive to Beverly Hills. The front door of his building opens and Greg walks out, in his usual collared shirt with rolled up sleeves, jeans, canvas sneakers, and his necklace and wristbands.
He hops into the passenger's seat and shuts the door. "Ready to go?" I ask.
"Whenever you are."
I put the car in drive and start to head to the exit of the parking lot, when I make a sudden turn and head into the deserted part of the lot. I throw the car back into park and fall back into my seat. "Tanner, what's going on?" Greg asks me.
"I just...had to do something before we left." I turn to Greg and find him both confused and worried. "Greg, we've been dating for about two months now. And I really like you, even more than I can say. So...I wanted to give you this."
I reach into my pocket and pull out a single key and hold it in front of Greg. He stares at the key for a second before looking back at me. "This is a spare key to my apartment. I want you to have it so you can come over whenever you like."
Greg sits in complete silence for a minute, not moving and he looks like he isn't breathing either. He slowly reaches forward and takes the key from my hand and stares at it. "I...I don't know what to say..." he quietly says.
"You don't have to say anything. I just hope that you take it."
He continues to stare at the key. "I...Tanner, I can't accept this..." He sets the key down in his lap and reaches into his pocket. "At least until you take this."
Pulling his hand back out, I find a small key in his hand. He holds it up in front of me. "Greg..." I whisper.
"This is a key to my own apartment, Tanner. It's been sitting in my pants pocket for the last few days and I've been wondering how to give it to you. I figured this would be the perfect time."
I take the key from Greg's hand and find myself staring at it. It's such a small gesture, but it means more to me than anything. I smile at the key and pull my key out of the ignition. Along with my car key sits only my apartment key on a key ring. With a bit of finagling, I get Greg's apartment key on my ring.
I put my car key back in the ignition and look back at Greg, who I find smiling at me. He takes my spare key and slides it into his pocket. Greg looks back at me and gives me a gentle kiss, making every hair on my body stand on end. "I..." I start to say.
The next two words I feel myself about to say I can't form, so I hide my fumble with a sneeze. "Bless you," Greg says.
"Thanks. Um...do you want to head over to my parents now?"
"Yeah, sounds good."
I give Greg one more kiss and pull out of the parking lot. I really need to figure this out. Do I love Greg? Do I?
We drive up to Mom and Dad's house and find a car already sitting in front. "You know whose car that is?" Greg asks as we step out of the car.
"Not my mom's or dad's. And Keith hasn't bought a car yet. But we're about to find out."
We walk up to the front door and I give the door a few knocks. Just like before, heavy footsteps echo behind the door and it swings open a second later. "There they are!"
Before either Greg or I can say anything, Dad scoops up both me and Greg, lifting us completely off the front porch. "Hello again, sir..." Greg chokes out. "Your grip...still hasn't let up..."
Dad sets us back down and Greg and I try to get out breath back. "Sorry about that, boys," he innocently says with a smile. "It's been a long week and I'm excited to be with all my kids again." Dad looks down at Greg. "And I thought I told you to call me Hank."
Dad grins again. "Hank! You're letting in a draft!"
The voice is instantly recognizable. "Is that Scott?" I ask.
"Yup. He got here about five minutes ago. C'mon in."
We walk into the house with Dad and find Scott sitting on the couch in the living room, two beers on the coffee table. "Ah, my two favorite under thirties," Scott says, getting up off the couch.
"What about your current players, Scott?" Greg asks.
"They're in high school, kiddo. I can't share a beer with them."
We both give Scott a hug. "Where's Mom?" I ask.
"She's just dropping off a package at the post office," Dad says. "She'll be back in a bit. And Keith's upstairs taking a shower."
"Can I ask how his treatment's going?" Greg carefully asks.
Dad smiles down at Greg. "It's been a slow process, but he's made a lot of improvement in the last month and a half. He still has nightmares, but they aren't as extreme as they used to be and they're less frequent. He's got a bit of work to do, but he's great."
I'm relieved knowing Keith is still doing really well. I haven't talked to him in about a week because I've been really busy with the team, but he's constantly been on my mind. "You two want something to drink?" Dad asks.
"I'll just take what you and Scott are having," I say.
"I'll have a water, please," Greg says.
"Oh, c'mon," Dad whines to Greg. "I know you're a coach and all, but you need to let loose every once in a while. Have a beer with us!"
"I'm sorry, Hank, but I really can't. I need to watch the amount of carbs I take in, and I've already had a good amount of them today."
"Now why would a man as healthy and physically fit as you need to watch your carbs? A beer or two won't kill you."
Greg glances over at me before looking back at Dad. "Actually, Hank, it could if I'm not careful. I have type 1 diabetes."
Dad's eyebrows rise a bit. He looks at me and I nod. "I'm...sorry," he says to Greg. "I shouldn't have prodded. It wasn't any of my business."
"It's okay, sir. I would gladly take one of my doses of insulin and join you all, but I took a dose a few hours ago and taking one now could put me at risk for insulin poisoning. So I need to stick to water for a while."
"Of course. And I'm sorry again. I'll get those drinks."
Dad heads off to the kitchen and Greg and I sit in the living room with Scott. "Hey, guys."
We look to the stairs and find Keith at the base of them, freshly showered and dressed. "Hey, Keith," I say. I get up off the couch and give my brother a hug. "You doing okay?"
He gives me a reassuring smile. "I'm doing great, baby bro. The therapy is tough at times, but it's helped a lot."
"I'm glad, Keith. I really am."
I lead Keith to the living room and he gives Greg and Scott hugs as well before taking a seat. Dad comes back into the living room with a few beers and a bottle of water for Greg and takes a seat next to Scott. "So where're are Ethan and Allie?" I ask.
"Allie should be here soon with your mother and Ethan will be here after they get back," Dad says.
Dad takes his new beer and presses the bottle cap against the edge of the coffee table. With a hard smack on the top, the bottle cap pops off. "Dad, you know Mom doesn't like it when you do that," Keith says.
"You're right, Keith. I don't."
We all look to the front door and find Mom standing there with her arms crossed over her chest, Allie standing behind her and knowing Dad's in trouble. And sure enough, Dad's patented 'kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar look' comes out. "Busted..." Allie says.
Mom walks into the living room and stares down at Dad, who still has that same look on his face. "Hank. I've told this time and time again: no popping bottle caps off your beers on the coffee table. Use a bottle opener like the adult you are."
Mom smacks Dad's upper arm and kisses the top of his head. Mom and Allie set their bags down and give everyone a hug and sit down with the rest of us. "Ethan's late again," Allie says.
"He texted me a while ago saying his band practice would make him a little late," Keith says. "But he promised he'd make it up when he got here."
"So what'd Drew doing while you're out having fun at a concert, Allie?" I ask.
"Drew's visiting Johns Hopkins with a team of interns, so he's out of town for a few days. He asked me to get him a t-shirt from the concert. I still can't believe Ethan managed to score eight backstage passes to an Our Name Is... concert. Those things sell out in seconds."
"I don't question it," I say. "I'm just ecstatic that I'm finally able to see Our Name Is... live."
"I wonder if I need to change..." Mom says to herself.
"Mom, it's a concert," Keith says. "A t-shirt and jeans is perfectly fine. You're probably dressed better than anyone who will be there."
"He's right," Scott says. "Last concert I went to half the people in the audience weren't wearing shirts."
Our conversation is cut off by the roar of a motorcycle engine. "Well, Ethan's here," Dad says, getting up off the couch and walking to the front door.
We all sit in silence as the door opens up and the sound of a choking Ethan echoes into the living room. "I'm so happy I managed to avoid that," Allie says. "I love Dad, but he can easily choke the life out of someone."
Dad and Ethan appear a second later, Ethan holding a few pizza boxes in his hands. "An apology for being late," he says, gesturing to the boxes.
He sets the boxes down on the coffee table and sits down next to Allie. "I'll grab some plates," I say.
"I'll help," Greg says.
He and I head into the kitchen and to the cabinet. Now that I'm out of everyone's view, I lean against the counter, suddenly lightheaded. "Tanner, are you okay?" Greg asks me quietly.
"I'm a fucking nervous wreck, Greg. My whole family is sitting in there and I want to tell them so badly, but I'm...so terrified..."
From behind me, Greg hugs me tightly. "I know it's a scary thought, Tanner, thinking your family won't accept you. But sometimes keeping it a secret from them can be even worse in the long run. But it's up to you on whether or not you want to tell them. I can't decide for you."
While I'm still incredibly nervous, Greg's words manage to help me a little. I turn around in his arms and give him a small kiss. "Thanks, Greg."
We get the plates and return to the living room and the pizza is quickly given out. "Ethan, while I appreciate it, was getting four pizzas really necessary?" Keith asks.
"Considering Dad can eat a large pizza by himself, yes."
We all look at Dad and find two slices of pizza halfway to his mouth. Despite us staring, he devours half of both slices in a bite. "Good idea, Ethan," Keith says.
We all get back to eating and I glance over at Greg. He stares at me for a second, nervousness in his face. But I know that nervousness is meant for me. "Is something on your mind, sweetie?"
I look up and find Mom staring at me. "Yeah, you've been pretty quiet the last few minutes," Dad says, a bit of pizza sauce on his face.
And now everybody's staring at me. Just fucking perfect. I set my plate down and wipe my face on a napkin. "Actually...there is," I say.
"I really hope this isn't like the time you totaled Dad's car two days after you got your driver's license," Allie says.
I smirk a little at the memory and the grounding I got from Dad afterword. "No, it's not something like that," I say. "It's just um...I-I've met someone..."
And two squeals from the two ladies in room make me wince. "Oh finally!" Mom says. "I've been waiting for years for you to finally find someone! I thought you would be single for the rest of your life!"
"Mom..." I whine.
"Amanda, quit babying the boy," Dad says with a smile. He looks back at me. "So who's the lucky girl, buddy?"
And there's the million dollar question that I'm going to get wrong. I feel my palms starting to sweat and I can't keep my legs from shaking. My eyes press shut and I can't even look at my family. "I-I can't do this..."
I quickly get up from my chair and rush for the front door, stepping outside before anyone can stop me. I close the door behind me and walk to the banister and prop my elbows on it, letting my face fall into my hands. I couldn't do it. I couldn't fucking do it. All of them staring at me, expecting me to answer a question I couldn't. It was too much.
My hands won't stop shaking and my heart rate won't go down no matter how much I try to breathe. I wanted to tell them so badly. But...I didn't want to see what they would look like when I told them. "Buddy?"
I glance over my shoulder a little and find Dad standing in the doorway, looking worried. I can't look at him right now, so I go back to looking over the banister. But that doesn't step him from walking onto the porch and stopping next to me. "Tanner, I can always tell whenever you're upset," he says. "And what happened inside is no exception.
"I told you all the time while you were growing up that you and your brothers and sister can talk to me and your mom about anything."
"Not about this, Dad..."
"Buddy, you can tell us anything and everything. If this girl you're with is pregnant or something like that, your mother and I will support you two through it."
My fingernails dig into the wooden banister, hoping that doing it will stop Dad from saying anything else. "There's no pregnancy. There's nothing involving a girl..."
"So what is it? Tanner, whatever is going on, you can..."
"I'm dating a guy, Dad! I'm gay!"
My eyes snap shut because I can't bring myself to look at my father. God know what must be going through his head right now. And my head isn't much better. My dad's been my role model since before I could walk. He's the one that got me interested in hockey when I was a kid. He's the man I've looked up to my whole life. I don't want to lose him because of this.
I press my palms against my eyes and grind my teeth together to try and keep myself from crying. "When I was in college, a few friends and I experimented with each other."
Uh...what? I slowly lower my hands and find Dad staring at me with a dead serious face. "W-What?" I whisper.
"Yeah, my friends and I from the wrestling team at University of Michigan tried a few things when I was still there. I won't tell you about it completely, but if I could sum it up in a word, it would be interesting. Yes, your mother knows, and she had some fun in college with a few of her friends as well. It helped us to see that two men or two women could love each other just as much as a man and a woman."
I'm surprised my mouth hasn't hit the front porch yet. "Tanner, if you're gay, then you're gay. I have no problems with it and I still love you all the same as I have your whole life. All I want is for you to be careful and to live a happy life with whoever this special someone is."
Dad takes a step forward and gives me a tight hug, one of those dad hugs that you always want even when you don't know you want it. I bury my face in Dad's shoulder and dig my finger's into his back and let myself quietly sob. "Were you afraid we wouldn't like it when you told us?" Dad asks.
I nod in his shoulder. "Buddy, I know for a fact that no one in that house will give two shits if you tell them you're gay. And if they have a problem with your sexuality, they'll have to answer to me."
Dad lifts me off his shoulder and stares right at me. He leans in and gives my forehead a kiss before hugging me again. "I love you, buddy."
I sniff my nose and press my fingers into Dad's shoulders. "Thank you..." I quietly say.
He gives me a few pats on the back before letting go. "Let's head back inside. I'm still hungry and everyone in there deserves to know this too."
With a nod and a wipe of the eyes, Dad and I walk back inside to find everyone still in the living room, looking a bit worried and nervous. "Okay, what the hell was that?" Ethan asks.
"Seriously," Allie says. "You ran from the room like you were about to crap yourself."
"Allie!" Mom scolds.
Dad and I sit back down and I clasp my hands together in my lap. "I'm sorry about that," I say. "But I just got...scared from what I had to say." I take a second to catch my breath. "This...special someone...that I'm dating is...a guy..."
My eyes immediately shoot to the floor, waiting for any sort of response from my family (and Scott). "Okay," I hear Keith say. "Ethan, can you pass me a slice of pepperoni?"
What the fuck?! I look back up and find Ethan handing a slice of pizza to Keith, who takes it and keeps eating like nothing happened. "U-Uh...you all heard me, right?"
"We did," Allie says. "Did you expect some kind of reaction from any of us?"
"W-Well...I thought that you would...I don't know, not like it?"
"Sweetie, do you honestly think that your sexuality would be a problem?" Mom asks. "To some close minded idiots, it would be. But not to me, your father, your brothers and sister, or Scott. While I admit it is a bit of a surprise to me, you being happy is all that matters to me. So are you happy with this man you're dating?"
The corners of my mouth involuntarily lift. "I am. I really am."
"Good." Mom sets down her plate and gets a devilish look in her eye, the 'I want to know every little detail about your life' look. "So what's this boy like? What does he do? Is he cute? How long have you two been dating? How did you meet? When can we meet him?"
"Mom, slow down," I say. I glance over at Greg, who gives me a small nod. "You've already met him and he's sitting about two feet away from me."
Every eye looks over at Greg, who smiles sheepishly. Dad, who was sipping on his beer, spits every drop of it out of his mouth in a fine spray. "Y-You're dating Gregory?!" he yells, wiping his mouth.
"My brother managed to get with a hot guy like you?!" Allie says.
Mom smacks Allie's knee. "Um...sir?" Greg says to Dad. "Didn't you say Tanner's sexuality wouldn't be a problem?"
Dad sets his beer down and looks a little calmer. "It's Hank, Gregory. And it isn't. But you're Tanner's coach. Is something like you two dating even allowed?"
"Um...we don't know," I say. "There's been no public record of a professional hockey player dating one of his coaches, so there's no rule that says a coach can't date one of his players."
"But neither of us are ready to come out to the public as dating," Greg says. "I'm open to the world about my sexuality, but Tanner is only partially open. None of his fans know about his sexuality, and we feel it's for the best that he not tell the public quite yet."
Everyone looks at each other for a second. "I can understand that," Scott says. "It took me years before I came out to Meadows High. And compared to my experience, yours seems to have a lot more potential for backlash. It's bullshit, I know, but there are still some bigots out there and you're a high profile athlete and coach.
"I won't say a thing to anyone else about this, at least until after you two come out to the world as a couple. But until then, my lips are sealed."
"While I never expected you two to be dating," Keith says, "I'll keep it to myself and between this family and Scott."
"And we all will," Dad says. "But I want you both to promise me one thing: this relationship of yours will not interfere with your work. I'm still going to expect the Kings to keep kicking ass. And if the Kings lose more than three or more games in a row, I'll know something's up. Get it?"
Greg and I both nod. "Good. Now eat some more pizza. I'm on slice six and I'm still hungry."
"Uh...in a sec," I say. "I'm going to get another beer."
"And I need a new bottle of water," Greg says.
"That's code for the boyfriends need to have a word in private," Allie says.
Greg and I get up out of our seats and walk into the kitchen. Again out of sight, I grab Greg and pull him into a tight hug. "They accept me," I whisper. "They still fucking love me..."
"I'm glad, Tanner. I really am..."
I pull away from Greg and he reaches up and wipes the bases of my eyes with his thumb. With a smile, I give him a kiss and hug him again. We give each other another squeeze before grabbing my beer and his water and head back into the living room.
A few hours go by filled with questions from everyone (well, mainly from Mom, but a few were thrown in from everyone else). A little after 5:00, Ethan rises from his spot on the couch. "Time to head out. Everyone has their passes, right?" We all nod. "Good. The taxi should be here in a minute."
"Taxi?" Mom says. "Why a taxi?"
"It's easier to use rather than us trying to drive through downtown L.A. with two cars. Plus my friend is paying for it, so I'm not complaining."
Ethan pulls out his phone and looks at the screen. "The taxi's here."
We all get up and walk to the front door. Sitting in front of the house is a large, black SUV, with a guy in a suit propped up against it. "Your friend must be a pretty good friend, Ethan," I say.
"I like to think so."
We walk up to the SUV and the man composes himself. "The White party?" he asks.
"That's us," Ethan says. "Did Scorch send you?"
"He did. Please," he says, gesturing to the car. "We must leave soon if we want to beat the traffic and get to the Staples Center on time."
"Dad, you're in the front," Keith immediately says. "If we try to stuff you in the back, you'll probably crush someone."
"You have a friend named Scorch?" Allie asks Ethan.
Ethan shrugs as we all climb into the car. "This is going to be a tight fit," Scott says.
"This is probably the biggest car available that can manage to fit nine people," Dad says.
"Says the guy that doesn't have her twin brother and brother's boyfriend pressed up against her while she sits on her oldest brother's lap," Allie calls from the back of the car.
The driver climbs in and without another word, we're off to the concert. Much of the ride is quieter than earlier in the day, probably because of the lack of room in the car. But the ride isn't too long because we've managed to avoid the traffic. We get to downtown L.A. and are near the Staples Center when we see the end of a line.
I know for a fact that the Staples Center is about five blocks from where we are right now. So if this line stretches all the way to the Staples Center, then it's more than half a mile long. "Are all these people lined up for this concert?" Mom asks.
"Yup," Ethan says. "Our Name Is... concerts sell out in about ten seconds and the Staples Center holds about twenty thousand people for concerts. I'd say there are about two to three thousand waiting in line so they can get the best place in the mosh pit."
"The mosh pit?" Dad asks.
"That place in front of the stage that you're not allowed in because you're too tall and broad, honey," Mom says.
The car continues to drive to the Staples Center, slowly since we're finally in the congested area of the city. After another ten minutes, we manage to get to the front of the Staples Center, where a few uniformed officers stand flagging down cars. An officer walks up to our car and the driver hands him a pass.
The officer looks at the pass for a minute before gesturing us through. The car continues and turns toward the underground garage Greg and I are used to. The car comes to a stop and the driver looks out at all of us. "Here we are," he says. "I'll be back after the concert to take you all back."
We all pile out of the car and stretch out our arms and legs. The car drives off and we're left standing in the middle of the parking lot. "Scorch will be here in a second," Ethan says, looking down at his phone. "He'll take us to the green room."
After a minute, a loud voice echoes through the parking lot. "White!"
Turning to the voice, I see a man with a flaming red Mohawk, full sleeve tattooed arms, and a lean frame covered by tight clothing coming toward us. "Hey, Scorch," Ethan calls back.
The man, Scorch (he gets it from his hair, maybe?), walks up to Ethan and the two exchange a fist bump. "This is Scorch," Ethan says to us. "He's the tour manager for Our Name Is... Scorch, this is my family and a few family friends."
Scorch smiles at us, revealing two sharpened canines. "Awesome for you guys to be here. Ethan's told me a lot about you all. Follow me. The band's hanging out in the green room."
Even though I've already met Brian and Justin, I still feel like I'm about to shit my pants out of excitement. Scorch leads us down the usual hallway the Kings head down to the locker room, but we stop about halfway down in front of a door. Scorch takes the handle and opens the door, where we're met by a boisterous noise.
My hands shoot to my ears to try and keep my eardrums from popping. As quickly as we hear it, the noise disappears. "That sounded great," says a familiar voice. "Travis, I think you were a little fast with the bass in the second verse, but it's an easy fix. And Neil, really nice job with the drum solo."
Lowering my hands, I find Brian sitting on a couch with a guitar in his lap. And with a look around the room, I find the other members of Our Name Is... scattered around. Travis Harkin, bass, Kelly Gordon, keyboard, Neil Landon, drums, James O'Donnell, rhythm guitar, and Dean Waldorf, backup vocals and violin.
Brian notices us and smiles. "Ah, our special guests. C'mon in and make yourself comfortable."
We all walk into the room and find seats, but I'm anything but comfortable at this point. Mainly because I'm sitting in front of the most well known band in the world. The only one who doesn't seem uncomfortable is Ethan (same clique I guess). "Sorry about the noise," Brian says. "The room is actually soundproof, so bands can practice in here before a show without disturbing anyone."
"Uh...it's okay," I say.
Brian lets out a laugh. "Tanner, I met you a few weeks ago at the wedding and you're still as squirmy as you were back then."
"Tanner!" Allie shrieks. "You met Brian Mosley and didn't tell me?!"
The band laughs at Allie's reaction. "Hey, you've met us now," Travis says. "From what Tanner told Brian, you must be his sister Allie."
Allie immediately blushes and sits back down, brushing hair out of her face. "Uh...yeah, that's me..."
Allie's probably the family member that gets the most star struck out of all of us. Ethan is the one who gets the least, and it's pretty evident now. He's having an easy-going conversation with Neil over by the drum set in the corner of the room (and Neil's built like an MMA fighter, so he's kind of intimidating). "Nice for all of you to be here," Brian says. "It's always nice to have some one-on-one time with some fans."
"Says the guy who gets the most attention out of all of us," Kelly says, pouting a little and sweeping his dark brown bangs out of his eye.
"Not my fault. I'm just too adorable."
Brian makes a face that resembles a young child from one of those feel-good movies Mom likes too much. I hate to admit it, but it actually is adorable. "He's right you know."
Looking to the door, I find Justin standing in the doorway. Great, now we have another giant in the room. Justin walks into the room, gives Brian a kiss, and takes a seat on the couch next to him. "Hey, Scorch, is everything set up for tonight?" Justin asks.
"Almost. There's a small problem with the sound system and we're still setting up the pyrotechnics, but other than that I'd say we're still right on track. The sound system is getting fixed right now."
"Good. Crestfallen is set to go on in about an hour and a half, and I want to make sure that they have a good performance."
Crestfallen is an underground band that's made a name for themselves. They're the opening act for Our Name Is... on their worldwide tour. "Hey, Justin. I finished that call and Project Blank is all set for the studio next week."
Looking back at the door, I feel my stomach drop. Mitch Cardoso, the ex-guitarist for Our Name Is..., is standing in the doorway. It's weird seeing him in a suit as opposed to the jeans and t-shirt he used to wear on stage. "Thanks, Mitch," Justin says. "Take a load off for a bit. I know you've been on your feet as long as I have and I'm exhausted."
"Oh, thank God..."
Mitch walks into the room and takes a seat next to Travis, giving the bassist a slap on the back. "Executive work kicking your ass yet, Mitch?" Travis asks, fiddling with the earrings in his ears underneath his shoulder-length blonde hair.
"Like you wouldn't believe. But it's awesome to be working with all these different bands and watching them starting out like we all did. But nothing beats just relaxing with a guitar for a few hours."
Mitch reaches over and picks a guitar off a stand and plugs it into a nearby amp. The room fills with piercing screeches of the guitar as Mitch effortlessly plays. His fingers are a blur as they dance over the strings before finally coming to an end. "Ah, that's better," he says, falling back into his seat.
I'm still too much in awe to speak. "That was incredible, but I've heard from Scorch that the new guitarist could do even Mitch Cardoso one better."
I look to the other side of the room, where Ethan is sitting and staring at Mitch. Mitch lets out a laugh. "Even I'll admit that the new guitarist is beyond amazing and I know he's better than me. If I'm called 'The Demon,' he'd be 'The Godsend.'"
The new guitarist is that good? "So where is this new guitarist?" Keith asks.
"He's around here somewhere," Dean says, rubbing his buzz cut. "He likes to take some time to himself everyday so he can think. But he really is incredible."
If this guy is as good as everyone says, I can't wait to watch him perform. There's a knock at the door and Justin stands up and walks over to it. Opening it, I hear a voice. "Hope we're not too late to the party."
Justin laughs. "Not even. C'mon in."
In walk four guys who I've come to be pretty close to. Josh, Leo, Eric, and Zane walk into the room. "Guys?" I say.
They all look over at me. "Hey, Tanner," Eric says, his skin tanner than normal having just come back from his honeymoon with Zane. "Great to see you again."
"What the hell, Tanner?!" Allie shrieks again. "One cute guy, I'm only a little pissed with you not telling me. But four hunky men?! I'm going to kill you later!"
The room erupts with laughter at Allie's reaction. Leo takes the chance to walk over to where Allie is sitting and kneels in front of her. "You're exactly like your brother, only prettier and more approachable."
I make a face at Leo as Allie seems to melt in her seat. Yup, those eyes of his got to her in maybe two seconds flat. "So is this your family, Tanner?" Zane asks.
"That's them. That's my mom and dad, my brothers Ethan and Keith, you've all already kind of met Allie, and that's Scott. He's a family friend."
"Nice to meet you all," Josh says. Like the gentleman he is, he goes around and gives my family and Scott handshakes. "Nice to see you too, Gregory."
"You too, Josh."
"Okay, I'm going to kill you too for not telling me you know these people, Gregory," Allie says, finally back to being herself.
The guys take seats around the room. "You excited, Brian?" Leo asks him.
"More like I'm about to piss myself."
"C'mon, Brian," Eric says. "You've performed in front of thousands of people before. So why do you always get so nervous before a show?"
"It's just the way he is," Justin says, kissing the side of Brian's head. "The little guy is a worrier and always thinks the worst is going to happen with every show."
"Hey, sometimes things do go wrong," Brian defends.
"I hardly think a blown light blub counts as the worst thing, babe."
Brian pouts and Justin kisses him again. "The show will be great, Brian," Zane says. "You've been practicing constantly for the past two months. You're ready for it."
"I hope you're right..."
Josh rolls his eyes and walks over to a table that has some snacks on it. He grabs a bar of chocolate and tosses across the room to Brian. Brian's eyes light up at the candy and he rips open the package and quietly chews with a content look on his face. "Same as when we were in high school," Josh says. "Give him something sweet, he immediately calms down."
So the lead singer of this world famous band battles stage fright with...candy. Well, we all have our habits. Brian finishes the bar of chocolate and leans against Justin. "Okay, I'm good."
The room laughs and goes back to lots of conversation, all of us ready for the concert.
More than two hours later, I'm standing off to the side of the stage, watching Crestfallen perform to a crowd of twenty thousand. These guys are great with their hard/indie rock sound and I can see them making it big really soon. Their last song comes to a perfect ending and they're met with a wave of cheers from the crowd.
The band bows to the crowd before heading off stage, where they're met with high0fves and hugs from Our Name Is... "You guys were awesome," Brian says. "It's great to have you on tour with us."
Crestfallen is made up of kids in their late teens, so hearing that from the lead singer of the world's biggest band is probably awesome for them. Crestfallen makes their way back to their green room and the roadies begin to set up for Our Name Is... "Does everyone have the set list ready?" Brian asks.
The rest of the band nods. "Good. Starting out with a cover to get the crowd going, then jump into our own songs. We're on in five."
The band goes off to mentally prepare themselves while my family, Greg, Scott, the guys and I are left standing with the best seats in the house. "I still can't believe we're here," I say.
"Buddy, calm down before you piss yourself," Dad says.
"Are you kidding, Dad? This is my favorite band and I'm seeing them perform live from backstage!"
"Let the boy have his moment, Hank," Scott says. "And I can see your knees are shaking from excitement too."
I look down at Dad's knees and see them trembling. "Hey, I can't help it," Dad says. "Since my kids told me about this band, I've been listening to them nonstop."
Scott laughs and slings his arm around Dad's thick neck. "Just like our dads," Zane says to Eric.
"Except my dad's partially insane and yours is a workaholic that's too nice," Eric replies.
Zane rests his head against Eric's shoulder. "I hope Allie and Ethan hurry back," Mom says.
And like a ghost (I know what that's like already thanks to Jason), Allie appears from behind Keith. "Hey, the show about to start?" she asks.
"Yup," Keith says. "You get Drew's shirt?"
Allie holds up the shirt in triumph. "Ethan helped to get it thanks to him being huge."
"So where is he?" Greg asks.
"He said he had to run to the bathroom really quickly and then he'd be here. I told him to hold it in, but he went into a little too much detail for my taste and I let him go."
"Hope he hurries," I say.
I watch with everyone as the roadies finish setting up and make last minute checks to every piece of equipment. With everything set, they jog off stage and give Scorch the thumbs up. Scorch mumbles into his headset and heads off to the main controls in the back of the arena. I notice that there are five microphones set up at the front of the stage, which confuses me.
After another few minutes, every light in the arena suddenly shuts off, which causes the crowd to cheer. My heart races as I focus intently on the stage. When the cheers die down just enough, a single overhead light snaps on, illuminating the middle of the five microphones and the person standing behind it.
Even with the single light, Brian's presence commands the entire stage. The crowd roars at seeing him, and he just calmly looks around the arena, smiling. He takes the microphone in his hand and gives it a few taps. The crowd continues to cheer as he stays completely still.
He leans into the microphone, still smiling. "I just have a single question for everyone here and I want all of you to answer it as loudly as you can: what's your name?"
Brian's met with a chorus of screams of different names, the sound echoing through the arena. Two more lights suddenly come on and Travis and Kelly are flanking Brian's sides. "I don't think we heard you," Kelly says, just as calmly as Brian. "What's your name?"
The crowd yells even louder than before, but the three guys on stage don't move an inch. Two more lights and Dean and James are at the last of the two microphones. "C'mon, you all can do better than that," James says. "What's. Your. Name?"
The arena yells as a whole, making the floor vibrate and my ears to hurt. My own throat is straining from me yelling my name so loudly and it's the same with all of us (Eric almost made me go deaf in one ear). Brian grins at the crowd. "Now that's what I'm talking about."
"And you can call me Brian. And we're Our Name Is..." Such a simple introduction and it gets such a huge response from the crowd (despite it being kind of boy bandy). "We're so glad Los Angeles is our starting place for our worldwide tour and I think you all are in for a great show tonight. But our first song...needs a bit of help from everyone."
And I'm lost. "You see," Brian continues, "we're all not really in the mood to play any of our instruments quite yet. So that's where you all come in. I want everyone to do exactly what I do. Ready?"
The crowd cheers in response, gaining another smile from Brian. "It's amazing isn't it?" Justin's appears beside us. "That little guy has the ability to win over an arena full of people with almost no effort whatsoever."
Justin obviously really loves Brian judging by the loving look on his face. Brian exchanges a few nods with the guys and stares out at the crowd. He suddenly gives the stage two solid stomps and stops for a split second before stomping twice again. He continues the process as Travis, Dean, James, and Kelly join in.
The crowd gets the message and the reverb on the stomping goes throughout the whole stadium. Brian stomps two more times before clapping once. The band unifies with the stomping and clapping and the crowd is quick to follow. Anyone would know this rhythm, and it's got my blood pumping already.
Brian leans into the mic and his voice fills the stadium.
Buddy you're a boy make a big noise Playin' in the street be a big man some day You got mud on yo' face You big disgrace Kickin' your can all over the place Singin'
Every single person in the stadium joins in with the band.
We will we will rock you We will we will rock you
Pure adrenaline rushes through me with the energy-pumping song. There's a reason Our Name Is... is the best.
Buddy you're a young man hard man Shoutin' in the street gonna take on the world some day You got blood on yo' face You big disgrace Wavin' your banner all over the place
We will we will rock you We will we will rock you
The performance is so simple, yet it's so outstanding that we've all joined into the mix by no choice of our own.
Buddy you're an old man poor man Pleadin' with your eyes gonna make you some peace some day You got mud on yo' face Big disgrace Somebody better put you back into your place
The crowd sings louder than they've ever before.
We will we will rock you Sing it!
We will we will rock you
From the other side of the stage I see some movement. Something shiny catches my eye and I see it's the outline of a near perfect black Gibson Les Paul. I can't see who's holding the guitar, but my heart skips a beat at seeing it. The new guitarist.
The hands on the guitar pluck a single string and the body holding the guitar makes his way on stage, standing nowhere close to the light.
We will we will rock you!
The body stops behind the band, not moving an inch as the single note slowly gets louder and louder.
We will we will rock you!
The band quickly moves out of the way and all the lights shine onto the guitar, but the man stays completely dark. And he goes to town. The crowd continues to stomp and clap as the guitarist plays his heart out. And every single note is perfect. My heart pounds as he approaches the end of the song.
With a few more chords, the song comes to an end and four of the lights go out, leaving only a single one on the guitar. The crowd roars at seeing the guitar, but their screams are silenced by the guitarist. Without warning, the man's fingers become possessed and they fly over the strings.
Mitch's playing in the green room was incredible. This...this is on another level. The speed he's playing at I can't even comprehend. His fingers are a complete blur as the solo comes to a resounding end. "Ladies and gentlemen," Brian's voice says. "Meet our new guitarist."
Here we go. "He has more than seven million subscribers on YouTube and over four hundred million views," Brian continues. "He's been practicing guitar since he was 6 years old and we're lucky enough to have him as our new guitarist."
Lights begin to turn on from the back of the stage, revealing Neil sitting at a very large drum kit. Another row of lights come on and I see Kelly, Dean, and James on the next row on the stage, Kelly standing with two keyboards, James with his electric acoustic guitar, Dean at a microphone with a violin by his leg.
The third row of lights flashes on and standing on the stage is Travis with his bass and Brian with a guitar behind his back. I now see the back half of the guitarist and I see he's...huge. Tall beyond belief with lanky, toned arms and legs. His hair is a dark brown and I see his arms are decorated with tattoos.
Brian holds a microphone up to his mouth. "Please give a warm welcome to our new guitarist: Ethan White."
WHAT THE FUCK?!! The last of the lights flash on and Ethan stands in the middle of the stage, smiling and gazing around the stadium that cheers him on. He gives the crowd a wave, getting even more cheers from the crowd. I'm too shocked to even breathe. My younger brother is the new guitarist for Our Name Is... Holy fucking shit.
Ethan glances over to where we're all standing and gives us a shit-eating grin before exchanging places with Brian. "Tanner and Gregory?" Allie says. "You two aren't on my chopping block anymore. My brother is going to get his neck wrung for not telling me this..."
Judging by the tone in Allie's voice, she isn't kidding. But the threat fades away as Ethan's hands find their place on his guitar and he jumps into the intro of 'Turn It Up!' If my brother is the one playing my favorite song now, there's no way I can be mad at him.
About two hours later (and enough hearing damage to last me a lifetime, not that I care), the concert comes to an explosive ending, with showers of sparks raining down on the stage and pillars of fire shooting out of it. A final crash and the crowd roars. "Thank you!" Brian yells out to the crowd. "Our new album will be out in May! And how about one more cheer for Ethan over here?"
The crowd yells in approval of Ethan, gaining a few more waves from him. "We love you Los Angeles and we can't wait to see you again!" Brian yells out. "One more time before we go! What's your name?" The stadium echoes for the fourth time tonight in a flurry of names. "Thank you and good night!"
The band heads off stage and the stadium lights start coming back on. Our Name Is... really knows how to put on a show, because that was absolutely incredible. Ethan walks off the stage and stands proudly in front of Tanner and his family. "Enjoy the show?" he asks, sweaty and out of breath.
Allie pushes her way to the front of the crowd and proceeds to punch him hard in the gut, knocking all the wind out of her brother. "That's for not telling me about this," she says, almost too sweetly.
"Hey, I wanted it to be a surprise..." Ethan groans out. He stands back up to his full height and looks down at his sister, which is almost looking down at the floor for Ethan. "Plus I knew you would've become the fan girl that you are, Allie, so I purposefully didn't tell you."
Allie sticks her tongue out at Ethan. "So what's the story?" Hannah asks.
"You all know I post videos of myself playing guitar on YouTube. I have since I was maybe 14. My channel started out small but then a late night guy played one of my videos on his show a few years ago and my channel exploded. I was getting fifty thousand new subscribers a day for a while before things calmed down a bit.
"But that wasn't before I started getting attention from some big names in the music industry. I started practicing with some pretty well known bands, like Forest Wake, Nebula, and Arterial Sun. It was really fun for a while and I got a lot of connections out of it. It's how I met Scorch.
"When Mitch decided to drop out of the band and go into production, Scorch showed my videos to Brian and he asked me to come in and practice with them for a while. Immediately after we finished, Brian asked if I wanted to join the band and I said yes. So long story short, I've finally made it."
The look on Ethan's face says he couldn't be happier with his life right now, and I don't think anyone can blame him. "I think we should give the Whites a bit of time to themselves," Scott says to me and the rest of the guys.
Nodding in agreement, we walk off to let Ethan be interrogated by his family. "Hell of a show," Leo says.
"Seriously," Zane replies. "I still remember the show back in college when he played with Josh and Eric. God, what a day that was."
I've heard the story from the guys a few times in the past, and it's a sore subject for all of them. I never delved too deep into it out of respect for Zane. "Ah, shit," Scott says. "I was supposed to text Clark an hour ago. He's going to kill me..."
Clark is a little over-bearing when it comes to Scott. I've met him a few times before, along with their son, Simon, and the two are really nice. Clark is a swimming coach and he helped to teach Simon how to swim and swim well. He must be good because Simon's on a full swimming scholarship at University of Florida.
Scott begins to fumble around, looking for his phone, making the guys laugh as they stop for a second and as I wait for him. He tosses his keys and wallet out of his pockets and they land on the floor. Sighing, I bend down and pick up the keys and the wallet, which opened up on impact. Unconsciously, I look at the wallet in my hand for a split second and look back up at Scott, who's frantically tapping his phone.
But something pulls me back to the wallet, something that caught my eye when I glanced at it. I look back at the wallet and find a few pictures in there, most of them of Scott and Clark or Scott and Simon. But there's one...that doesn't look like it fits. The edge of it seems a little older than the other ones, judging by the slight discoloration and small crinkles.
I flip to the photo in question and see it's of a woman, a beautiful woman with long, wavy light brown hair, a warm face, and a pleasant smile. I know this woman, but how does Scott know her? My heart starts pounding as I reach for my own wallet. Pulling it out, I look at the single picture I have in it.
Sweat begins to roll down my back and I suddenly feel like I'm about to puke. Why does Scott have this picture? "Gregory? You okay?"
I glance up and find Scott standing in front of me, looking concerned. "S-Scott," I quietly say. "Who...who is this woman?"
I hand Scott back his wallet and he looks at the picture. Scott smiles a sad smile, one filled with worry and longing. "That's my ex-wife," he says. "God, I miss her. I can only hope she's doing okay, both her and our kid. Why do you ask, kiddo?"
My hand slowly turns my wallet to Scott, showing him the picture in it. His face pales at looking at it. "W-We have two pictures of the same woman, Scott," I shakily say. "Your picture is of your ex-wife. Mine is...of my mother..."
The realization hits me like a freight train. And it looks like it's the same for Scott. Scott is my mother's estranged husband. Scott's...my dad. "Kiddo..." I barely hear Scott say.
But I don't hear anything around me. All I can do is see, and the only thing I'm seeing right now is red. My fist flies at Scott's face and it connects with the side of his jaw. Scott falls to the ground and I immediately jump on top of him and grab him by the collar. "YOU MOTHERFUCKER!! YOU FUCKING MOTHERFUCKER!! MY MOTHER IS DEAD!! AND I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!"
"G-Gregory, please!" Scott tries to reason.
But I give him two more punches to his face. I'm about to give him a third when I feel arms and hands holding me back. "Gregory, get off of him!" Leo yells.
"You're hurting him!" Zane says.
As hard as I try, I can't get out of the grips of four different guys who hit the gym as much as I do. But my legs can still move, so I knee Scott right where it hurts. His hands shoot to his balls as the guys get me off Scott kicking and screaming. I manage to get one arm loose enough to where I can move it, only to accidently elbow something behind me.
I glance behind me a bit and find Eric holding his hand to his face and blood trickling out between his fingers. Josh takes control and forces me against a wall, pinning my arm behind my back. Josh forces himself against my body. "Don't do something you'll regret later, Gregory," he says. "You're the coach of the Kings. You don't want the press hearing about this."
Josh's words help me to calm down a bit, but I'm still angry beyond belief. Scott, the man that helped me so much when I was a kid, the man who was like a father to me in high school and through college, is my actual father. The man who didn't try to look for me and my mother, who left me to take care of myself for most of my life.
I look around enough to find Leo, Eric, and Zane keeping the two of us apart. Scott's back on his feet, but his nose and lip are bleeding, his face looks swollen and is starting to bruise, and he looks...broken. It actually hurts to look at him. "I think my nose cracked..." Eric says, wiping a bit of blood away.
Zane inspects his husband closely. "Holy shit, I think Gregory actually straightened your nose."
Zane pulls out his phone and the two stare at the reflection of Eric's now straight nose. "Greg! What the hell is going on?!"
Tanner and his family are rushing down the hallway, Brian, Justin, and the band in tow. With more people around, Josh lets me go. "Ask that fucker right there," I say, pointing at Scott before turning and walking down the hall.
"Greg, hold up!"
But I don't stop. I keep storming down the hallway, away from everyone, especially Scott. But a firm hand on my shoulder forces me to stop. "Greg, please wait."
I snap around and find Tanner's pleading face. "I'm really not in the mood to talk, Tanner," I say.
"Yeah? Well, I am. You fucking knocked around my old hockey coach, one of our old teachers, and our friend. Can you please tell me why?"
"Because he never fucking looked for me!" I can feel every fiber of my being snapping. "He fucked my mom, got her knocked up, she ran away with me, and he never bothered to try and look!"
My fists clench as Tanner stares at me wide-eyed. "Scott's...your dad?"
I barely nod before Tanner pulls me into a tight hug. My face presses into his shoulder and I hold onto him for dear life as I start to cry. "Hey, hey, it's okay," Tanner soothes. He calloused hand rubs my back and hair. "You and I are going to take a cab back to my apartment. I'll text my parents and let them know what's going on and we'll spend the night together. Okay?"
I nod against Tanner's shirt and he leads me down the hallway. But as we get close to the exit, I hear something very faint echoing off the walls. It's not enough to make me stop and look back, but I know the sound: the anguished cries of a crushed man.