Hi everyone. RichardAdams here. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post this, but here it finally is. The last chapter of Is It Possible...? and the last chapter of the Am I...? series. For those of you that don't know, when I started this series, I was a fresh high school graduate about to head to college. And before I even started writing this, an idea popped into my head. "I think I'm going to write a new book."
So I got to work on Am I...? And before I even know it, I had completed a quarter of it. Yes, when I first started writing it, my writing was pretty crap. I like to think I've gotten better as time has gone by. I originally thought Am I...? was going to be a stand alone novel. But you all asked for me to keep it going, so I decided to add a sequel with Could I Be...?
By the time I finished that, people were asking for a trilogy. So I chose to write Is It Possible...? So here I am, two and a half years after starting this journey, and here we are at the end. I know it's taken me quite a while to get this out there, but I think a part of me didn't want this story and this series to end.
But I also knew I wanted to get this done and get the sense of accomplishment I would get from finishing this series. It's a bittersweet feeling, but a good one nonetheless. I hope I've been able to create an ending that makes all the readers happy. I've happy with what I've created, and that's what is important to me.
So here it is. The final chapter of Is It Possible...? Stay tuned after for another message from me. I hope you all enjoy.
“Tanner! We’re going to be late for your parents’ party!”
“Hang on a few seconds! It takes a little while for me to get a boot on my leg!”
With a few more Velcro straps secured, I rise off the bed and take one last look in the mirror. Should I let my hair keep growing out a bit? I’ll ask Greg in a few days. I grab my crutches and hobble over to the door and walk into the living room, where I find Greg standing at the counter and Adam doing his impromptu push ups.
He hops back up to his feet. “How’s the leg, bootie?”
“Just be glad I can’t ram my foot up your ass, Adam.”
“You even try to ram your foot up his ass, you’ll get my arm down your throat,” Greg says. He walks over to me and kisses my cheek. “Just be glad this wasn’t serious or I would have killed you.”
I glance down at the boot covering the lower half of my leg. “How long again did the doctor say I have to keep this on?” I ask.
“Five weeks. You’re lucky you didn’t break a bone. But the doctor said the bruises were pretty bad, so the five weeks are a precaution.” He leans in close and lowers his voice. “I’m more upset that I still haven’t been able to tell you how proud I am of you for the finals and how I want to get you in bed and…”
“You know I’m, like, five feet away from you both and can hear everything you say, right?” Adam says.
“I know,” Greg says. “I say things like that around you to in order to get you to squirm.”
Adam rolls his eyes. “C’mon. Party starts pretty soon, right?”
“Yup,” I say. “You drive.” He grabs my keys off the counter and we head down to my car. “I hate the back seat,” I say as I climb in.
“Sorry, Tanner,” Greg says. “But you do need the extra leg room.”
Why does he sound so happy with that? Adam heads over to my parents’ house and it’s not long before we get there, a few other people already here. Greg helps me out of the car and we walk up to the front door. It opens as soon as we step up to it. “About time you got here,” Dad says.
“Blame Tanner,” Adam says. “It takes him a little while to piss with his brace on.”
I take one of my crutches and proceed to whack Adam in the back of the leg with it. “Don’t make fun of the guy with the weapon,” I threaten.
Dad laughs at our antics. “C’mon in. Your mother is running the kitchen.”
Yay… We all walk in and are immediately met by the voice of my mother. “Put some elbow grease in to it, Drew! Those noodles aren’t going to form themselves! Keith, stop stealing the cookies! Allie, show your boyfriend how to do it! Ethan, keep forming those patties!”
We walk around the corner and find Mom standing in the middle of the kitchen as she watches everyone scramble around her with a hawk’s eye. “Gregory!” she yells. “You’re on potato salad duty! Start chopping potatoes! Adam! Carry bags of ice from the basement! Tanner!” She glances at my leg and makes a face. “Go sit down with your father.”
“Damn you, Tanner!” Allie yells as she helps kneed dough with Drew. “You just had to go and hurt yourself, didn’t you?”
I shrug innocently. “Not my fault I have a job where I can hurt myself a lot. Could you grab me a beer though?”
If looks could kill, Allie’s would have buried me in the ground about twelve times by now. “Don’t make me get you working, Tanner,” Mom says. “Hurt leg or not, I can find something for you to do.”
“Oh, I’m not that thirsty anymore…”
I quickly crutch into the living room and out of Mom’s line of sight. As soon as I sit down, the sound of the front door closing catches my attention and I find Scott with a few six packs of Stella under his arms. “Need a hand with that?” Dad asks from his chair.
“Nah, I’m good. Clark and Simon are grabbing a few more things from the car.”
Speak of the devil, the two walk in not even a moment later, each holding a cooler. “Hope you like ribs,” Clark says. “We brought plenty for everyone.”
“And some homemade mac and cheese,” Simon follows up.
Greg walks out of the kitchen and gives his family hugs. “Please save me…” he quietly whispers.
“I heard that, Gregory!” Mom yells.
Greg quietly swears and returns to the kitchen and Mom’s wrath, his family close behind. I’m going to pray for him pretty soon. Turning on the television, I immediately find a news channel. “And Happy 4th of July to all of our viewers!” the anchor says. “Our live coverage of the fireworks in New York City will start in just a few short hours! We hope you stay tuned with us and enjoy the spectacle!”
Not exactly the same as fireworks in person, but it’s better than those crap ones from the grocery store. Although no one can ever beat sparklers. The front door opens and closes and I see Ulrich and A.J. walking in, holding a few containers. “Even after nearly thirty years of knowing you boys you still don’t knock when you come here,” Dad says.
“You know you love us, Mr. White,” A.J. says. “Even in our old age.”
“So what does that make me?” Dad asks.
“The crypt keeper,” Ulrich follows up.
Dad walks over to them and locks them both in a tight headlock. “You better have brought food and drinks or I’m going to pop your heads like zits.”
They both hold up their containers and Dad releases them before Dad promptly takes the food and drink to the kitchen. “How’s the bruise coming?” Ulrich asks.
“A few more weeks then I can get back on the ice. But this is torture…”
“So that means you’re able to help with the bar, right?” A.J. asks.
I take my crutch and am about to smack his leg with it when a high-pitched, bloodcurdling scream comes from the kitchen. We all rush to the kitchen, save for me because I need to crutch in there. As soon as we walk in, we find everyone in the kitchen on the other side of it, looking at one of the containers A.J. and Ulrich brought it like it’s going to kill them slowly.
I match all of their frozen positions and look at the container. “Can someone explain why I nearly crapped myself after hearing that scream?” I ask. “Please tell me there isn’t something dead in there.”
“No, nothing dead…” Allie quietly says.
“Oh for the love of God…”
Ulrich walks over to the container and pulls out two large plastic bags. Everyone, save for A.J. and Ulrich, bristles at the sight of the bright red contents of the bags. “Ulrich, you brought wings into my parents’ house?!” I yell.
“Don’t get your panties in a bunch, Tanner,” he says. He rips open one of the bags and pulls it close to his nose, taking a large whiff. Just when I think I’m about to get something from his will, he comes back perfectly fine. “They’re medium wings. I toned down my recipe or today.”
Slowly, the group of cowering adults moves toward the bags and gets a closer look. “Holy crap,” Ethan says. “They’re…normal…”
“I am capable of making food that everyone can eat,” Ulrich says. “Now if the oven is open, I would like to reheat these.”
With the threat gone, everyone calms down again. “Okay, everyone,” Mom says. “Not even the potential threat of Ulrich’s wings is going to keep me from running this kitchen. Everyone back to your positions!”
“I kind of wish they were his special wings now…” Keith whispers.
Mom smacks Keith on the shoulder and everyone gets back to work. But as I walk back in to the living room, I see Dad and Drew stepping out to the front porch. Hmmm. I plop back on to the couch and Greg joins me a second later. “Your mom let me relax with you for a little while…”
“You sound so relieved.”
“Your mother is a slave driver, but she makes awesome food and is nice when she wants to be.” He slumps over and rests his head on my shoulder. “Comfort me. Your mom was mean to me…”
I wrap an arm around his shoulder and pull him close. “Why aren’t you comforting me? I’m the one with the hurt leg.”
“I comforted you already. It’s my turn.”
I roll my eyes, but give the top of his head a kiss and settle into the couch. Dad and Drew return a few minutes later with Dad looking satisfied with himself and Drew looking like he’s seen a ghost. “Something happened with them,” I say.
“Any idea what?”
“I didn’t hear any screaming and don’t see anything broken, so it probably was a conversation. Not sure what about though. But I’m curious.”
Glancing in to the kitchen, I see Drew helping Allie with what I think are the ribs. But I notice that he seems really tense. Dad takes a seat back in his chair with a beer and kicks his feet up. “Getting a head start on the party, Dad?” I ask.
“You could say that.”
He pops the cap off and takes a long drink from the bottle. Strange. Dad loves the 4th of July. It’s arguably his favorite holiday. Seeing him so subdued is…strange. Slowly, the other guests start to arrive. They’re mostly family friends from when we were all growing up along with a few neighbors.
The party moves to the backyard, where Dad fires up the barbecue to start grilling the meat and many of the men crowd around trying to add their own input. Everyone else mostly enjoys the nice weather and company. Unfortunately for me, I’m confined to a chair for the festivities.
Everyone wishes me well on my injury, and I appreciate the kind words, but I want to enjoy this day with my family, friends, and Greg. It’s hard to do that when you need two walking sticks that stab you in the armpits just to go to the bathroom. But I try to make do with what I have.
But that doesn’t mean I get to take advantage of the situation as well. “My leg hurts…” I whine to Greg. “Can you feed me?”
“You have two working arms, you big baby.”
“But it hurts…”
Taking a page from Allie’s book, I pull off the best puppy dog face I can. Greg makes a face at me. “That is probably the worst puppy face I have ever seen. But you get bonus points for trying.”
He grabs a hot dog on a plate between us and holds it in front of me. “This is very sexual,” I say.
“I’m feeding you a tube of congealed pork with mustard on it. There is nothing sexual about this.”
Laughing, I take a bite of the hot dog and swallow before planting a kiss to Greg’s lips. As I pull back, I see I left a bit of mustard on the corner of his mouth. “Oops.”
Greg notices and takes his tongue and licks around his lips, cleaning up the mustard and making me slightly aroused at the sight. “You did that on purpose…”
“Me? I was only cleaning up what you left behind…”
He smirks at me. The little tease. Reaching behind him, I get a handful of his sweet butt, making him yelp and jump. I grab him and pull him in to my lap, holding him tight. “Now you did that on purpose,” he says, trying to be angry.
“Me? You’re the one who teased me with that tongue flick.”
He and I stare at each other for a moment before the two of us both laugh. He makes himself comfortable on my lap and gives me a kiss himself. Looking up, I feel my face redden at seeing just about everyone in the backyard staring at the two of us. “You two are so in love it’s almost disgusting,” Ethan says near us.
A few other people snicker. “You’re just jealous you don’t have someone to date,” I say.
The sudden rev of a motorcycle engine grabs everyone’s attention. All except Ethan for some reason. A moment later, the side gate to the backyard opens up and from the side of the house, an incredibly beautiful woman appears. Shining dark black hair, a slender, sexy body covered in tight jeans and a tank top, and a porcelain white face accented with Asian features.
The woman gazes around the party until she sees Ethan and she smiles. She walks over to him and he greets her with a hug. “Glad you could make it,” he says.
“Sorry for being late,” she says, her voice light and bubbly. “The traffic was terrible.”
Ethan chuckles and gives her cheek a kiss. “This is Yumi,” he says. “She’s the lead singer of Nerve Ending and we’ve been going out for a little over a month now.”
The little fucker… Ethan gives me a wink and escorts Yumi over to Mom and Dad, who seem eager to meet her. “That was an epic middle finger from your brother,” Greg says.
“Don’t encourage him. But yes. Yes it was.”
Greg gives the side of my face a sympathetic pat. “Hey, so what’re you doing next weekend?”
“The same as last weekend: sitting at home wishing my leg wasn’t hurt so I could do the stuff I normally do.”
“How about you and I go somewhere special? Just the two of us.”
A trip? With just me and Greg? I’m already interested. “What did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking we could drive up to Lake Tahoe and camp for the weekend. Think about it: starry nights, you and me by a campfire, no one around to catch us doing…”
“You had me at Lake Tahoe. I’m so in.”
Greg smiles and gives me a small kiss. Looking across the yard, I see Dad still at the grill, trying to focus on what he’s doing. But even from here I can tell he’s distracted. I wonder if everything’s okay. I’ll talk to him after the party is finished.
Thankfully, the food turns out amazing as usual. If there’s one thing Dad knows how to do well, it’s grilling. And working out, but that doesn’t count at the moment. As soon as the sun fully sets, the guests all break out their fireworks and start lighting them up. I guess all it takes is a little alcohol and some gunpowder for adults to turn into small children.
Thankfully, no one is hurt through the very flammable festivities. And after everyone has managed to sober up a bit, people start to help clean up and leave. It’s been a pretty good day. I wish I could have enjoyed it more if I were able to move a little bit better, but I had fun nonetheless.
Sitting in the living room watching a little TV, Dad walks in and takes a seat next to me. “Where’s Gregory?” he asks.
“Bathroom. Where’s everyone else?”
“Kitchen. The Carters just left, so my house is now mine again.”
Dad lets out a loud belch from the pit of his stomach. “Just because it’s your house doesn’t mean there still aren’t people here,” I say, waving a hand in front of my face.
Greg walks back into the living room. But before he can take a seat, he takes a quick few whiffs of the air. “Did someone bring roadkill in here?”
“That would be this big lug right here,” I say. “Let out a nasty burp a few seconds ago.”
“Been holding that one in, Hank?”
“The whole party.”
Greg laughs and takes a seat next to me. “So, Dad. What’s gotten up your butt? You seemed really on edge this whole afternoon.”
He lets out a big sigh and falls back into the couch. “It’s nothing that you need to involve yourself with, Tanner. All it really is is…”
A sudden shriek from the backyard grabs all of our attention. Jumping off the couch, at least trying to in my opinion, we all run (I hop) to the back door, where Mom, Ethan, and Keith are already through. Making it to the backyard, I don’t expect to see what we find.
What I find is Allie with her hand pressed to her mouth and Drew down on a single knee, a velvet box held in front of him. “Allie White, will you make me the happiest man on Earth by accepting this ring? Will you marry me?”
Allie doesn’t give a moment’s notice before she pulls Drew back up to his feet and jumping into his arms. So that’s what Dad was focused on all day. Drew must have asked his permission to propose to Allie. Mom lets out a loud squeal and rushes at the two. “Oooh! I get to plan a wedding!”
Keith and Ethan walk over to Allie to give her hugs while shooting intimidating glares at Drew. Don’t get me wrong. They both think Drew is awesome. But if he so much as even hurts my sister’s feelings, he’ll feel the wrath of four very angry White men and one furious White mother.
Greg steps up next to me. “Guess you were worried over nothing.”
“I guess so. But now that my conscious is at ease, we get to plan our weekend vacation.”
Greg smiles up at me. “I’m just glad Mark hasn’t taken his McLaren back yet.”
Oh fuck yes.
A little more than a week later, I drive up to Tanner’s apartment and send him a quick text letting him know I’m here. I don’t think I’m ever going to get over driving this thing. I can see why rich people buy these things. It’s not always because they have small penises (while many of the do). It’s the fact that you have a very powerful and awesome looking car at your disposal.
A minute later, Tanner walks out of the front entrance to his building. Thankfully his doctor said Tanner could have limited movement of his leg. While it isn’t much, Tanner was incredibly relieved to know that his leg wouldn’t be in the way of our weekend getaway. “This thing is incredible,” he says as he climbs in with his bag.
“You’re telling me. And Mark said I could keep it for the weekend as long as I get it washed before I bring it back.”
Throwing the car into drive, it’s not long before we’re on the 395 headed north. Thankfully, Mark’s McLaren is equipped with a retractable roof. So with that down, we take in the mid-summer sun. “How long do you think until we’re there?” Tanner asks me.
“Probably a few hours. But at least we decided to take the scenic route.”
And it’s definitely scenic. It really helps to push away all the stresses of everyday life away. As we keep driving up the highway, a sharp, distant rev catches my attention. Looking in my rearview mirror, I see two small dots a good distance behind us. But I quickly notice that they’re getting closer. And fast.
My hand tightens on the steering wheel by instinct and a nervous noise bubbles up in my stomach. “What’s up?” Tanner asks me.
“I don’t like how those two guys behind us are getting closer.”
Tanner glances behind him and sees the two in the distance. “They’ll probably just pass us. Ignore them.”
Trying to get back to focusing on the road, I find myself glancing in the rearview mirror again. And all I see are the two getting even closer. It’s two motorcycles, and they’re coming up fast. Before I can try and do anything, the two cycles race up next to the car and match our speed.
I glance at the two bikers and the one in front tries to flag me down. Like hell I’m stopping! As I’m about to press my foot to the petal to speed up, the biker in front flips up their visor. And even though they’re squinting, I recognize those eyes anywhere. I start to slow down the car and pull off onto the side of the road.
The bikers pull up behind us and kick their stands down. “Greg, what’re you doing?” Tanner asks as he looks in the side mirror.
“Relax, Tanner! Even from back here I can feel you shaking!”
I roll my eyes and step out of the car. The two bikers peel off their helmets and their two incredibly handsome faces make an appearance. “You trying to give me a heart attack?” I ask.
“Oh, you know it’s so easy to,” Josh says.
“Sucks I didn’t get you to piss your pants,” Leo follows up. “I would have laughed so hard had I seen you ruin Mark’s car.”
“You’re a fucking sadist, Leo.”
“You should have seen him last night,” Josh says with a dreamy look in his eyes. “Him taking control makes things in the bedroom so much more…”
“Okay, if there’s one thing I don’t need to hear it’s your sex life,” Tanner says, joining us. “What’re you guys doing here?”
“We both needed a vacation,” Leo says. “Things at the shop are getting busier and busier, so we’re thinking about opening a second shop pretty soon. But we’re both so exhausted that we decided a weekend getaway would be perfect for the both of us.”
“No Aiden and Jade?” I ask.
“They’re with our parents,” Josh says. “They were more than happy to spend time with each other. What about you guys?”
“Pretty much the same thing. We wanted a weekend away from the hustle and bustle, so we decided to drive up to Lake Tahoe for a camping weekend.”
Josh glances over at Leo and, in one of their wordless conversations, smile at one another. “How do you guys feel about adding two more to that camping trip?”
Camping with Josh and Leo? Hell, I’m down for it. We went on a few weekend retreats with some friends back in college and those were a lot of fun. But how would Tanner…? “The more the merrier,” Tanner says from behind me. “But our tent is only big enough for two.”
Well that was easy. “No worries,” Josh says. “We’ll grab some supplies and meet you guys there. Still a few hours left in the drive anyway.”
“Perfect,” I say. “See you there.”
Tanner and I climb back into the McLaren and resume our drive. “Pretty odd coincidence that we’d see there here, don’t you think?” Tanner asks.
“A little. But I wouldn’t focus on it too much. They’re two of my closest friends and they really seem to like you too, even though you guys haven’t interacted very much. So I say let’s roll with it.”
Tanner shrugs and goes back to looking at the passing scenery. Some time later, we arrive in Lake Tahoe, the peaceful quiet a blessing for the both of us. And with the Fourth of July weekend behind us, the place is very nearly deserted. Parking the car, we climb out and stretch our limbs before grabbing our stuff.
Once the car is covered, we set out to find a good camping spot. “Shouldn’t we wait for the guys?” Tanner asks.
“They’ll be able to find us. But now we get to have some alone time…”
With a cliché wiggle of my eyebrows, Tanner laughs and we keep setting out. A few minutes later, we find a perfectly flat area near the lake and close by Emerald Bay. There are a few boaters and other campers around, but it’s still incredibly quiet. We set our stuff down and star setting up the tent.
Hammering a spike in the ground, Tanner looks over at me. “I may enjoy camping, but putting this shit together is a pain in the ass.”
“A necessary evil, Tanner. After we finish this up, we can take a walk together down the beach.”
“Sounds good to me. Can you hand me another spike?”
Grabbing a spike in question, I hand it to him and help getting the tent set up. But as I raise some of the tent, I feel something in the back of my head. Not any pain, no, but a strange feeling. Like…someone’s watching me. Glancing around, I see that it’s only me and Tanner here. Hmmm.
The tent is finally set up a few minutes later and we toss our bags in it. “Ready for that walk?” he asks me.
With a smile, I take his hand and we set off toward the beach. The water is a bright blue and shimmering in the late afternoon sun. My shoes slowly sink into the soft sand as we take a moment to gaze out over the water. “This was a great idea,” Tanner says.
“I think so too.”
Tanner plants a kiss to the side of my head, making me blush. “Hey, fancy seeing you two here!”
Looking over toward a large rock, I find a familiar face perched on top of it, sketchbook and pencil in hand. “Zane!” I say. “What’re you doing here?”
Securing his sketchbook, he slides off the rock and walks over to us. “I wanted to come out here to get some inspiration for my next collection. So I’ve been drawing the landscape nonstop ever since we got here yesterday.”
“We?” Tanner asks.
“You should know by now that wherever Zane is, I’m close by, Tanner.”
Spinning around, we find Eric standing right behind us, wearing a loose tank top and running shorts. “Good run?” Zane asks.
“Loved it. I always love running on sand.”
“What brings you two out here?” Zane asks.
“We wanted a weekend away from our lives, so we decided some camping would be good for us,” I say.
“Looks like we came camping for peace and quiet and found some losers instead!”
Looking behind us, we find Josh and Leo walking over to us. They approach Zane and Eric and give the two some hard bro hugs. “Nice!” Eric says. “We get to relive our senior year camping trip!”
Everyone, save for Tanner and Eric, groan at the memory. “We will never speak of that weekend ever again,” Josh says.
“I still have a mark from when you guys decided it would be fun to throw hot marshmallows at each other!” Zane says.
“Sweetie, that mark was already there,” Eric says. “Trust me. I’ve seen it more than enough times when you decide you want to ride on…”
“La la la!” Tanner says, pressing his hands to his ears. “I don’t know you two well enough for sex stories!”
The guys chuckle at seeing Tanner’s reaction. “Just be glad you didn’t go to college with any of the,” I say. “You’d hear all four of them having sex nonstop! In the showers, their rooms, the bushes, hell I’m pretty sure I heard one of you in Charles’ office one time!”
“What Charles doesn’t know won’t hurt me,” Zane says. “At least we got the stain out of the couch before he managed to notice.”
He wiggles his eyebrows at Eric, who grabs a hand full of Zane’s butt cheek in response. “Are you guys set up near here?” I ask.
“Yeah, just a little ways away,” Eric says. “But a really obnoxious college couple is camped near us and they’re constantly getting it on in their tent. Maybe we could join you guys at your site?”
“By all means,” Tanner says. “Just lead us to your tent and we’ll help you pack up.”
And after about an hour’s work (and a bit of ear covering to give that college couple some respect), Eric and Zane’s tent is set up right along side ours and Josh and Leo’s. The sun is already starting to set, we set quickly get a fire going. Josh gets some hot dogs out of a cooler he and Leo bought and pass around a few roasting forks.
With the hot dogs cooking, the sun finally goes down and a peaceful quiet washes over the lake. “You guys want to play ‘Never Have I Ever?’” Leo asks.
“Ha!” Eric exclaims. “I haven’t played that since high school!”
“Never played myself,” I say. “But I’m in.”
Everyone else nods and Leo stands up and goes to the cooler. He comes back with a few six packs of Guinness and sets them near the fire. “Okay. Rules are, when you have done something someone says, you take a sip. First one to finish their beer loses.”
“What does the loser have to do?” Tanner asks.
Leo thinks about it for a minute before grinning. “Strip naked and go and jump in the lake.”
“Oh c’mon, it’s freezing right now!” Zane says. “My balls will disappear inside of me!”
“Scared of losing, Zane?” Josh teases.
“Them’s fighting words, Rusden.” Ha, Zane’s slight Texas accent has made an appearance. “Hand me a beer. Let’s do this shit.”
The beers are passed around and I’m surprised to see Leo take one for himself. “I thought you didn’t drink.”
“I’m slowly getting back into it. Wine is nice, but I want to get into drinking a beer every once in a while.”
“Okay, ladies,” Eric says. “Who wants to go first?”
After a moment, all eyes point to Tanner. “Why me?”
“Newbies first,” Leo says. “We all played drinking games in college, but not with you. C’mon, hothead. Let’s see what you’re made of.”
I swear a little bit of steam comes out of Tanner’s ears. “You’re on, pretty boy. Never have I ever…been tied up during sex.”
There’s a moment of silence before both Josh and Leo take sips of their beers. “That was an awesome night,” Josh says.
“We still have those handcuffs if we want to do it again sometime.”
The two lock lips for a moment before returning to the real world. “Your turn, Greg,” Tanner tells me.
“Okay, um…never have I ever have phone sex with someone.”
Everyone, except me and Tanner, takes a drink. “You two need to step up your game,” Zane says.
“More like you four need to calm the fuck down,” Tanner says.
“My turn,” Eric says. “Never have I ever flashed someone I didn’t know.”
Tanner takes quick gulp of his beer. “You have?” I ask.
“By accident. I was in the locker room in college changing and I didn’t know that a tour group was coming through at that time. There was a memo but I missed it. I strip naked and am met by a group of about fifteen or twenty people. I think I scared a grandma half to death.”
The guys burst out laughing and I’m quick to join in the fray. This is nice. Friends, fire, alcohol, and a quiet night. As the game continues, I start to get that seem feeling I felt earlier. Like I’m being watched. Looking around, all I see is darkness. Maybe I’m just over thinking things and the alcohol is getting to me.
A few beers later for all of us, we’re all pretty exhausted. “I think I’m going to head to bed,” Josh says, stretching his arms. “I want to see the sunrise in the morning.”
“Just don’t wake me when you do,” Leo jokes. “I need my beauty rest.”
Josh grins and he and Leo head to their tent. Eric and Zane aren’t far behind them. Tossing some water onto the fire, Tanner and I head for our tent too. Climbing in, Tanner zips up behind us and we both quickly strip down. “Good first day in my opinion,” he says.
“I think so too. How about tomorrow we go for a swim in the lake then go for a small hike?”
“Sounds awesome.” We both lie down on our sleeping bags and scoot close to one another, my head resting on his solid chest. “Get some sleep. I’ll be right here when you wake up.”
Feeling myself smile, I close my eyes and slowly ease into a peaceful sleep.
I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep, but I’m quickly awoken by the sound of a twig snapping right outside of Tanner’s and my tent. Taking a second to situate myself, I shake out my head and look toward the entrance flap. “Josh? Eric? Guys? Is that you?” I whisper.
No answer. Oh for the love of God please don’t be a bear or mountain lion or some shit like that. I grab my glasses and turn on my lantern to the lowest setting, accidently waking Tanner up in the process. “Greg? What’s going on?” he mumbles.
“I heard something outside. I want to check it out.”
Sitting up and stretching a little, he looks at me. “I’m coming with you.”
Turning on the lantern full blast, we unzip the tent and step outside. It’s still pitch black out here. “Do you see anything?” Tanner asks.
“Nothing. I swear I heard…”
Another twig snaps, this time a much larger one, making both of us jump. “If this is someone’s idea of a prank this shit isn’t even funny,” Tanner says.
The sound of a zipper catches my attention and I see Eric and Zane stepping out of their tent, wearing next to nothing. “Nice briefs, Eric,” I joke.
“You’re just jealous I can pull this shit off. What the hell are you two doing? It’s three in the morning.”
“I heard something moving out here and we came out here to check it out,” I say. “We think whatever it is may still be nearby.”
Josh and Leo’s tent opens up next. They’re dressed a bit more modestly than the other two. “So why are you guys making so much noise in the middle of the night?” Josh asks.
“Gregory heard something and he and Tanner came out to take a look,” Zane says.
“Well whatever it may have been must be gone now based on how much you guys were talking,” Leo says, suppressing a yawn.
Nodding in agreement, we all start to head back to our tents. But as I’m about to step in, another twig breaks, this time a much larger one. “Okay, what the hell is going on?” Tanner says, stepping back out.
The guys join us again, this time with a couple flashlights and shine them through the trees. And that’s all we see: trees. Nothing else. No deer, no squirrels, nothing. But something had to have broken that twig. “Okay, I’m going to be the voice of reason here,” Josh says. “We’re in the middle of the woods and it’s the dead of night. Animals are going to make noise.
“So with that being said, I’m going back to sleep. I’ll make pancakes in the morning with the stuff Leo and I bought. But that’s only if we ALL go back to bed. Okay?”
We all nod and turn back to our tents again. Zipped back up, I climb back on my sleeping bag with Tanner. “Do you think it was just a deer or something?” I ask.
“I don’t know. But staying up all night thinking about it isn’t going to help either of us. Let’s just get some sleep and think about the pancakes Josh is going to make for us tomorrow morning?”
Mmmm. Pancakes. With that in mind, I lay my head on Tanner’s chest and ease back into my dream state.
I watch from behind the trees as the six climb back into their tents. It’s always nice to throw them through a loop. It keeps them on there feet. I’ll let them sleep for now, but come tomorrow, I’m going to have a little fun with each and every one of them. Or I’ll just stalk them like a creep. Whichever one I feel like.
But just for good measure, I pick up the largest stick I can find and bend it until it snaps right in two. All three of the tents shift from the guys shuffling in all of them, making me laugh a bit. Okay, that’s enough for one night. I think I’ll just go…wait, I just thought of something incredibly evil for me to do.
Should I do it? Um…hell yes? It’ll be hilarious for me! Let’s just turn up the heat a bit and let the sparks fly!
Oh my fucking God! Why is it so hot?! I slowly wake from my state of being partially dead and find my body is practically drenched in sweat. And where the hell are the clothes I slept in last night? Did I take them off while I was asleep? Slowly sitting up, I wipe as much sweat off my forehead as possible.
Stretching and popping just about every joint I can, I see Greg starting to wake up too. “Holy shit,” he says, sitting up too. “It was nice and cool last night. How did it get so hot?”
“Global warming probably.” He throws his sleeping bag off of himself, only to reveal he’s as nude as I am. “Um…did you strip naked last night after we fell asleep?”
Greg looks down at himself, immediately looking confused. “What the hell!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m fucking confused as hell. But I will take complete advantage for this situation just so I can see Greg naked in front of me. He rises to his feet to try and grab some clothes from his bag, only to find that his bag is gone. “Okay, is someone messing with me?” he asks.
“Wasn’t me. My bag is gone too.”
“Um…guys?” Leo? “Can you come out here please?” I glance over at Greg and he gingerly unzips the tent flap. We stick our heads out to see Josh and Leo doing the same thing as we are. “Did you take our clothes? We can’t find them.”
“Our clothes are gone too,” I say. “Do you think Zane and Eric did it?”
“Nope, because we’re as naked as the day is long.”
And looking over at Zane and Eric’s tent, the two come out completely naked, not even caring that their man junk is on display for the world to see. “So do you guys want to give up this joke?” Eric asks. “I don’t want to accidently show my ass to some old woman and kill her.”
Well, if they’re naked, might as well join them out there. I fully unzip the tent and step outside, despite Greg’s protests. “Okay, so none of us took our clothes. So now we have two questions: where are our clothes and who took them?”
The rest of the guys join in the public nudity. And now I take the opportunity to ogle the other very hot and sexy men here. Don’t pop a boner here, Tanner. You’ll make things even weirder than they already are. “Is anything else gone?” Greg asks.
“Not that we’ve seen,” Josh says. “Just our clothes.”
“Well,” Zane says. “Someone’s a gigantic dickface.”
“Let’s just hope they’re decent enough to eventually bring them back,” Leo says. “But until then, I don’t want to let this ruin any of the relaxing we had in mind for this weekend. Josh, break out the pancake stuff.”
“Wait, we’re seriously going to hang around naked?” I ask.
“Why not? Humans lived for thousands of years around each other naked before someone decided it was indecent to see someone’s genitals and nipples. Plus most of us have seen each other naked at one time or another. What’s the big deal?”
We all glance at each other for a minute. “I call the comfy rock near the fire pit,” Zane says before quickly walking in that direction.
Ignoring the general weirdness of the situation, we all join him as Josh and Leo go to get the breakfast stuff. “So what’s the plan for today now that all of our clothes are missing?” Greg asks.
“Well assuming there aren’t any people close by, maybe go for a swim,” Eric says. “Can we swim naked in the lake?”
“Well I guess we can now,” Zane says.
Josh and Leo come out with the stuff for breakfast and we get a fire lit. Thankfully the heat from earlier is dissipating, so the fire doesn’t make it worse for any of us. Really nothing beats some good old-fashioned cooking. A while later, with all of us stuffed, we all just sit around the fire, welcoming the peace and quiet.
Hmmm. I think they’ve all become a little too comfortable at the moment. Getting them naked and without clothes was funny when I was watching their reactions, but now they’ve become accustomed to it. What to do to make this even better… I press my finger to my lips in thought.
Maybe if I try that…
A sudden large boom causes us all to jump. Looking up above us, I see the sky is starting to get darker and darker. “Seriously?” I say. “Now?”
“Could be worse,” Zane says. “It could have happened while we were still eating.”
“He has a point,” Greg says. “Let’s just get all this stuff cleaned up and…”
A few drops of water start to fall from the sky. A few seconds later, it becomes a steady stream and we’re all soaked to the bone in no time. “God dammit!” Eric yells.
“Calm down,” Leo says. “Water never killed anybody. Plus it makes putting out the fire a hell of a lot easier. Just grab what you can and let’s get back to our tents.”
As we all start grabbing the stuff, the wind really starts to pick up and the rain gets even heavier. “Tanner!” Josh yells to me.
He points in the direction of Leo’s and Josh tent. A corner of it slowly rises from the ground and, like the straw that broke the camel’s back, it all comes crashing down in one fell swoop. “Are you kidding me?” I say to myself.
“The rain must have loosened it,” Eric says. “Let’s just put the supplies with me and Zane and we’ll be fine.”
And as soon as he says it, the winds picks up even more. Looking at Eric and Zane’s tent, it’s putting up a hard fight against the wind. But the wind manages to win out. The spikes are ripped from the ground and their tent goes flying into a tree. “Well, fuck this,” Zane says, dropping what he’s holding before walking toward me and Greg’s tent.
“I’m with him on this,” Leo says, joining him.
We all follow suit, abandoning what we have with us and going for the safety and dryness of the last tent standing.
Well that was interesting. When this is all said and done I’ll fix it, but right now I’m having too much fun with this. But how about I make things a little more…interesting for everyone? Hehe, I like letting the darker side of me out sometimes.
So here we all are, dripping wet in a tent made for two or three people, shivering from the sudden chill of the rain. “I really wish we had some towels here,” Eric says.
“Don’t we all?” Josh says. “I suppose it could…”
“Don’t you fucking dare finish that sentence, Josh,” Greg says. “Last time someone here said that, we got hit by Hurricane Fuck You.”
Josh quickly quiets down. We all sit in silence as the torrent of rain falls on the tent. As we sit, the familiar sound of a tree branch breaking gets all of our attention. How we all heard it over the rain I have no idea. “You all heard that, right?” I ask.
Everyone nods. Another sound grabs all of our attention. But this time, it isn’t a branch or twig. It’s a low rumble. And it isn’t from the thunder overhead. This sounds…animalistic. “I really hope that was someone’s stomach,” Leo says.
Another low rumble. But this one sounds even closer. A few seconds later, I feel something right behind me on the outside of the tent and it lets out a large huff. My body freezes at the very unwelcome feeling. Eric reaches over and turns on the lantern we have in here. With the light, I glance behind me and see a very large mass outside the tent.
Oh my fucking God. It’s a bear. “There’s the fucking bear outside!” I shrill quietly through my teeth.
The rest of the group freezes like I do. “No one move,” Josh says. “My family and I have seen a few bears through the years on camping trips. The best thing to do is not move and hope it goes away.”
Josh, if this bear ends up mauling all of us, so help me I will kill you. The bear move slowly around the tent, curious as to what it sees. It walks around the tent and stops at the front of it, nudging it with its face (I think it’s its face). I grab Greg and pull him close to me.
He grabs me in return and the two other couples follow suit. “Greg, I love you,” I say.
“Don’t make that sound like it’s the last one I’ll ever hear,” he says back.
I press my lips to his for a few seconds and pray with every fiber of my being that it’ll go away. A sudden loud growl makes us all jump before a large paw rips its way through the tent. We all scream bloody murder, awaiting what happens next. “Heel! Fucking heel!”
Who the hell was that? Slowly opening my eyes, I see the front of the tent is completely ruined, but there isn’t a bear to be found. “You guys can come out, you know!” the same voice says. “The bear won’t do anything with me here.”
We all glance at one another before shakily stepping out of the tent. Sitting right by the fire without a care in the world is the bear. A large black bear. She watches us carefully for a moment before licking her paw, completely ignoring us. “Sorry about her. Didn’t expect her to do something like that. But sometimes things get a little out of my control.”
We all look and find, standing not even five feet away from the bear, a young man. Dressed in a V-neck t-shirt, tight dark jeans, and black converse sneakers, he looks to be about the same height at Zane. Short dark brown hair covers his head and few days of stubble sits on his face. Large hipster glasses cover deep blue eyes and sterling silver earrings are in his ears.
A lean body hides under those clothes of his and two tattoos sit on his forearms. He looks to be in his early 20’s, college-aged I think, and a small smirk sits on his face. In one of his arms is a closed laptop. But something amazes me even more: it is still pouring rain, but he doesn’t even look the slightest bit wet.
The young man cracks his neck before smiling at all of us. “You guys look like you’ve been through some hell today,” he says.
We all look at each other. “Um…you could say that,” Greg says.
“Kid, I don’t know who you are, but you need to get away from that bear,” Eric says. “She could maul you to pieces.”
Surprisingly, the young man chuckles a bit and walks over to the bear, giving her head a rub and causing my jaw to hit the ground. “She wouldn’t hurt a fly. I made her with that in mind.” He gives the bear a pat on the back. “Go on, get out and explore the world.”
The bear gets up and walks away, disappearing into the woods a few moments later. “This rain is really starting to bug me,” he says. “Let’s clear things up.”
He raises his hand and snaps his fingers, the sound echoing throughout the woods. After a few moments of ‘What the fuck?’ going through my mind, the rain quickly eases before finally disappearing. The sun pops out from behind the clouds not long after. “H-How…” I say.
“Let’s get you all some clothes on too. Your balls will get sunburnt if you keep them out for too long.” He snaps his fingers again and clothes suddenly appear on all of us. Hell, these are my clothes! “And let’s clean up this campsite a bit. You guys sure made a mess.”
Snapping his fingers again, the ruined campsite begins to repair itself right before our very eyes. The two destroyed tents repair themselves right where they were before, all the soaked food is dry again, and the ground isn’t even wet anymore! In just a few short seconds, our campsite looks just like it did yesterday.
The young man smiles at us again. We all take a collective step back. “H-How the hell did you do that?” Greg asks.
“Oh it’s easy. In this world, I can do whatever I want. I could make it snow here for no reason. I could cause aliens to land on earth and enslave humanity. I could make it so you all could have superpowers. Not that I’m going to.”
“Awww,” Zane moans. “I want superpowers…”
Eric gives him a nudge. “So who are you?” I ask. “God?”
“Call me R.A. And I’m leaving it at that. If I try to explain any of this, I think it would throw off the universe.”
He walks over to the fire pit and takes a seat on a rock before opening his laptop. Curiosity getting the better of us, we all walk over and stand behind him. “So what’re you doing?” Josh asks.
“Just writing down everything that just happened. I may use this for a story one day.”
His fingers fly over the keyboard of the laptop, writing at a speed that makes it hard for any of us to keep it. He suddenly snaps his laptop shut and stands up. “Okay, I need to get going,” is all he says before he turns and walks in the direction of the water.
We all quickly follow behind him as he gets to the shore. “I’m still incredibly confused here,” Greg says.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” R.A. says. “Just let yourselves think this is a dream and it will all be okay. Right now, I’m running late for class.” He turns to look back at all of us. “You all are my best creations. All of your stories are almost complete. It’ll be a bittersweet ending, but I’ll be incredibly proud when it’s all finished.”
“Wait, are we going to die?” Eric asks.
R.A. laughs. “No, you won’t die. Now, I really do need to get going. You may not see me around, but I’ll be watching all of you.”
He turns and runs at the water. Expecting him to dive in, he bolts right across the surface of the water. Another snap resonates across the lake and he suddenly disappears. We all stand there in a state of shock, trying to make sense of all of this. “I need a drink,” I say. “Who’s with me?”
Everyone raises their hands before we all head back to the campsite. Sitting by the fire pit is a small cooler that wasn’t there before. Seeing as this day can’t get any weirder, I take the chance and open the cooler. Sitting inside is a six-pack of ice-cold Stella Artois. Pulling out the case, we all take a beer.
We pop the bottles off and take long drinks, relishing in the cold liquid. “Oh and also,” says R.A.’s voice. “All of your clothes are back in your tents and there are bottles of lube and toys for all of you to use. Have fun!”
We all spit out our beer at hearing his voice again. “That kid…” Josh says. “He was interesting.”
“Interesting is a word,” Eric says. “A little devilish in my opinion.”
“I liked him,” Zane says.
“Do you think he’ll come back?” Leo asks.
“Based on what he did, I kind of hope he doesn’t,” Greg says.
The bottle in Greg’s hand suddenly shatters. “What was that, Gregory?” R.A.’s voice asks.
“I-I mean he’s a wonderful guy!”
The bottle comes back a second later. “That’s what I thought.”
We all sip our beers in silence, letting what just happened sink in. “So…that just happened,” Zane says.
“And we’re leaving it at that,” Eric follows up. “I’ve seen too much weird shit in my life. This takes the cake as the weirdest. Right now, I think a nap is in order for all of us.”
“Agreed,” Leo says.
We all quickly finish our beers and head back to the repaired tents. I lie down on my sleeping bag and stare at the ceiling as Greg lies next to me. “So who was that guy?” he asks me.
“Beats me. All I know is that he’s watching all of us right now. Really makes you think about what else he can do.”
Tucking my hands behind my head, I feel a small lump underneath my sleeping bag. Thinking it’s probably my phone, I reach under to grab it. I come back with a small bottle of lube. “Are you serious?” I think out loud.
“I like making sure my creations get the best,” R.A.’s voice says.
“Okay, fuck it,” Greg says. “We’ve had a really weird and messed up morning. So right now, having sex with you sounds fucking incredible. Lube me up, hothead.”
Greg quickly starts undressing. “You had this all in mind, didn’t you?” I think to myself.
“Like I said,” R.A. says. “My creations deserve the best. And if the best is a long and hard screwing, then so be it. Have fun!”
Maybe he isn’t so bad after all…
Jesus, am I glad the brunt of summer is finally over. Now I can finally get back to work. That was said by absolutely no one ever. Now that it’s finally August, the Kings need to get back to work and prepare for the upcoming season. We’re reining Stanley Cup Champions, so we have a name to hold up.
But waking up at the crack of dawn is definitely something I am not very happy about. But I need to get back on my normal schedule. Rising out of bed, I turn on the bathroom sink to wash my face. As the water heats up, I check my phone for anything new. A text from Tanner suddenly pops up.
‘Hey, sorry I can’t drive you to the gym this morning. Ethan asked me for some help getting a couch into his new place. I’ll see you at practice though. Love you.’
Wish he could have told me a little while ago. But oh well.
‘No problem. Don’t be late to practice or the wrath of Coach Gregory Natick will fall upon you.’
‘Someone’s in a dominant mood. Bring that back to my place tonight. ;-)’
Oh I plan to. Once I’m clean enough, I pack up my stuff and head out to the bus stop. Thankfully, the bus is actually on time. I hop on and wait until I get to my stop. I put my earbuds in and focus only on my phone, checking messages while trying to not be weirded out by the people staring at the coach of the L.A. Kings.
At least it’s only a short ride to the gym. I get off and walk the short distance to Rock’s. Walking in, I find him at his usual place at the front desk. Jillian is standing there with him. “There’s our favorite coach,” Rock says as I step over to them.
“Good morning to you too. Quiet morning?”
“No more than usual,” Jillian says. “Oh! I forgot to tell you!” Jillian holds up her hand, revealing an engagement ring on her finger. “Rock proposed! And I said yes!”
Rock blushes something harsh, but grins from ear to ear. “Wow,” I say. “Congrats. You two have been going strong for a long time.”
“I thought he was never going to!” Jillian says. “But he takes me out to dinner Saturday night and then to Venice Beach to watch the sunset. The man drops down on one knee and I thought I was going to faint right there! So romantic!”
Rock plants a kiss on Jillian’s cheek, making her giggle. “This sassy lady is going to keep me crazy until the day I die.”
It seems like everyone around me is getting married. First Allie and Drew, and now Rock and Jillian. “Congratulations again, you guys,” I say. “I’m going to go for a swim. I’ll catch you both later.”
They wave before going back to making goo-goo faces at one another. I walk into the locker room and easily find an empty locker before starting to change into my speedo. As I change, I feel another presence in the locker room with me. A shadow catches my attention and I glance over my shoulder.
Taking a locker near me is a very large and muscular man. Based on how attractive he is I would say he’s a fitness model. My curiosity satisfied, I go back to changing into my trunks. “Hey, you’re Gregory Natick.”
Looking over at the muscle man again, I find him looking at me with the same curiosity I had a moment ago. “That’s me,” I say, turning to face him.
“Name’s Kurt. I’m a Kings fan and I got to say, you had an awesome first year.”
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
“So all that stuff about you and Tanner White dating. Is that true?”
Has he been under a rock for the last few months? Me and Tanner’s relationship was a huge topic of discussion for the longest time. “It’s all true,” I say. “He and I have been dating for almost a year now. Only recently we made it public.”
“Wow. I never would have guessed Tanner White to play for the other team.”
Curt strips off his shirt, revealing a perfectly proportioned and incredibly muscular torso. I stare for a moment, but just a moment. You all know you would do the same. “So, I need to ask,” Curt says. “What’s it like?”
“What do you mean?”
He pulls a tank top over himself and takes a seat on the bench across from me. “Being in a relationship with another guy.”
Yay, I get to explain myself to a total stranger. But at least he isn’t threatening me for being gay or some stupid shit like that. Closing my locker, I pull on my sweatshirt to give myself some decency and take a seat as well. “What made you bring this up?”
He shrugs, almost looking self-conscious. “Um…just curious I guess.”
Hmmm. “Being in a relationship with a guy is just like being with a girl. Save for all the physical and sexual stuff, it’s exactly the same. Dating, talking, getting to know each other, it’s all the same process. The only thing that’s different is what’s downstairs.”
“Interesting. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you come to find out you were gay?”
“Oh Jesus, I haven’t been asked that in a long time. I think it’s when I was in my freshman year of high school. I was walking down the hallway, lost beyond belief. First week, you know? Then out of the corner of my eye, I see him. This guy, who even back then was big and muscular for his age, was walking toward me.
“His hair was high and tight, his jawline was strong, shoulders broad, waist trim, t-shirt tight against his body and his jeans hugged his legs. It made my heart skip a beat at seeing him, the world disappeared around me, and all I could see was him. I never had a reaction to anyone like that in my life, even though I had tried with girls before. He’s the one that did it for me.”
Here I am laying it all out to someone I don’t even know. And yet there’s an air of comfort around us. Kurt shifts for a moment before looking down at his hands. “There’s this…person,” he says after a moment, “that has caught my eye a few times. Not here, though. I live in Detroit.”
He smirks a bit. “It has its good parts. Anyway, I’ve seen them around a few times and…it’s exactly the same for me. Looking at them, I get all the same feelings you did. All I know is that…I’m really fucking confused.”
“It’s a guy, isn’t it?”
There’s a moment of silence before Kurt nods. “I’ve never looked at a man like I do with him. I’ve only ever been with girls and now I don’t know what to do.”
Coming to realize you may not be straight is something pretty difficult to go through. I would know because of what Tanner has told me. “Kurt, my advice to you would be to not go off the deep end. Yeah, there may be a possibility you’re attracted to another man. I would say take it slow and think about it.
“If you come to the realization that you may want to be with this man. If you know he’s attracted to men as well and single, then go for it. The most that can happen is he’ll say no. And with your physique, there’s no way he’ll even try anything more than that. You could crush him easily.”
Kurt smirks again. The door to the locker room opens and Kurt and I stand back up. I start taking off my sweatshirt again, only to hear a familiar voice. “Coach Natick?”
Turning around, I’m met with the face of Stephen Denier, holding a workout bag. I haven’t seen the man since the NHL hearing. Last I heard he was focusing on his personal life while banned from finishing the season. While a part of me is still angry with him for what he did to Tanner, Tanner convinced me Stephen was going through a rough patch in his life and what happened on the ice wasn’t him (still a bit peeved though).
I leave my sweatshirt on and face him. “Stephen. What’re you doing in L.A.? Don’t the Red Wings have practice?”
“Not for a couple more days. Coach Brody postponed it for a little while so he could help take care of his husband while he’s down with the flu. I was here visiting family and decided to spend an extra few days.”
I glance over at Kurt, who’s still changing. But I also notice he’s as stiff as a board. “How is Tanner doing?” Stephen asks. “I haven’t spoken to him in a couple weeks.”
Stephen and Tanner talk? Huh. “He’s doing well. His leg has completely healed and he’s ready to get practice started again.”
“That’s good to hear.” Stephen finally takes notice of Kurt and immediately, his face goes bright red. “Oh, hey. You’re that guy from the gym back in Detroit.”
I see Kurt’s hand tighten into a fist for a moment as he turns to look at Stephen. “Y-Yeah, that’s me. Good to…um, see you again…”
I glance between the two and see both of their discomfort. So that’s how it is… “Yeah, Kurt here was just telling me how his workout partner couldn’t make it this morning,” I lie.
Kurt snaps his head over to me, his face filled with surprise and a bit of fear. “Oh,” Stephen says. “Well, I wouldn’t mind filling in if you need a workout partner. Is that okay?”
“Y-Yeah, it sounds good to me…”
“Cool. Just let me get changed and I’ll meet you out on the gym floor.”
Stephen goes to another row of lockers. As soon as he’s out of earshot, Kurt looks over at me again. “What the hell are you doing?!” he whispers.
“Setting you up with the guy you’re constantly thinking about. And based on what I’ve seen, I can tell the feeling is mutual between the two of you. Get to know him and see how you feel when you’re around him. And then let things go from there.”
I strip off my sweatshirt and throw it in my locker. I grab my swimming cap and goggles before giving Kurt one last look. “And be careful where you point that thing.”
I nod down at Kurt’s crotch, quickly expanding in his pants. He covers himself and sits on the bench, his face bright red. Giving him an encouraging smile, I take my stuff and head for the pool. After a long and exhausting swim, I pull myself out of the pool and head back for the locker room.
Walking in, there are a few people changing and conversing with each other. Needing to get to the arena as soon as possible, I strip out of my speedo and head for the showers. I quickly wash the chlorine off of me and am thankful for the warm water relieving the tension in my muscles and joints.
I shut the water off and start drying myself off. As I wrap my towel around my waist, two other men enter the shower area. I think the blushing faces of Kurt and Stephen entering. They take stalls right next to each other and try to avoid looking at each other, failing miserably.
Inwardly sighing to myself, I secure my towel and look at the two grown men acting like teenagers. “The communal shower is completely empty, you know,” I say, as nonchalantly as possible. “There’s a lot more room to…move around.”
The two men blush even harder and I have to force myself not to laugh. Giving them a wink, I head back for the locker room, hearing the sounds of two showers turning off and feet walking toward the communal showers. It’s sometimes fun to play a little bit of cupid.
I finish drying myself off and throw on my clothes. As I pull my sweatshirt over my head, I glance at a clock mounted on the wall. 8:47?! Shit! I spent too much time in the pool! Grabbing my stuff, I rush out of the locker room and to the front of the gym. Wish I could say goodbye to Rock and Jillian, but they must be in the back office or something.
Getting outside, I run to the street in the slim hope of finding the bus that leads to the sports arena still waiting. Unfortunately, the bus is nowhere in sight. I can’t be late on the first day of practice! How will that make me look? Not to mention the shit I’ll get from the team after all the times I’ve stressed being on time.
Pulling out my phone, I quickly call a cab and wait outside of Rock’s. Several minutes pass and a cab pulls into the parking lot. I throw my stuff in the back seat and climb in. “Toyota Sports Arena, please,” I say. “And if you could get me there as quickly as possible, I’d appreciate it.”
The driver nods and we head out. At least I managed to get the good cab driver because he manages to avoid all the mid morning traffic and gets me to the arena in record time. One I pay the man and give him a hefty tip for helping me, I grab my stuff and rush into the arena.
Getting down to the locker room, the first thing that I notice is the complete lack of noise. God, if they’re already down on the ice, I’m screwed. I throw my bag aside (I’ll grab it later), and head for the rink. But while I expect my team to be already on the ice and practicing, I notice that every single light is out.
There doesn’t seem to be a soul here. Okay, if none of them are here, I’m going to blow a freaking gasket. As I’m about to turn back to the locker room in an attempt to find at least another person, a single light snaps on. It’s one of the spotlights used for when someone scores a goal, and it’s pointed right at the center of the ice. Right where a small table is sitting.
While nearly every part of me is telling me to turn around, that single part of me that always goes against the rest tells me to walk toward the table. Taking a breath, I step out onto the ice and let my feet carry me to the table. On the table sits a single, red button, with a sign next to it that says ‘push me for a big surprise.’
Okay, whoever decided to make buttons red, you kind of suck. Slowly reaching my hand out, I lay it on top of the button. With a single push, I wait. After I feel like nothing is going to happen, the largest blast of sound I’ve ever heard fills the arena.
Covering my ears to try and keep myself from going deaf, the noise disappears after reverberating for a few moments. Slowly taking my hands away from my ears, I’m met by the soothing sounds of plucking guitar strings. After a few moments, a soft and beautiful voice fills the arena.
‘We could just go home right now.’
‘Or maybe we could stick around’
‘for just one more drink, oh yeah.’
A bass line kicks in and other lights suddenly snap on. Looking up, I find all the members of Our Name Is… standing in the bleachers.
‘Get another bottle out.’
‘Let’s shoot the shit, sit back down’
‘for just one more drink, oh yeah.’
All of their voices come ringing out in perfect harmony.
‘Here’s to us.’
‘Here’s to love.’
‘All the times that we fucked up.’
‘Here’s to you.’
‘Fill the glass.’
‘Cause the last few days have kicked my ass
‘So let’s give ‘em hell.’
‘Wish everybody well.’
‘Here’s to us.’
‘Here’s to us.’
Okay, what the hell is going on? As I try to search for an answer, more lights snap on. Looking over, I find Josh standing with a microphone.
‘Stuck it out this far together.’
‘Put our dreams through the shredder.’
‘Let’s toast, cause things got better.’
More bodies walk over next to him and I see Leo, Eric, Zane, all their kids, A.J. and Ulrich, Rock and Jillian, Adam, Brody and Clint, Scott, Clark and Simon, Mark and Shawn, and others as well join Josh in his singing.
‘And everything could change like that.’
‘And all these years go by so fast,’
‘but nothing lasts forever.’
More lights turn on and I find the whole team standing on the ice in their uniforms, minus their helmets, and they join in the fray as well.
‘Here’s to us.’
‘Here’s to love.’
‘All the times that we messed up.’
‘Here’s to you.’
‘Fill the glass.’
‘Cause the last few nights have kicked my ass.’
‘If they give you hell,’
‘tell ‘em go fuck themselves.’
‘Here’s to us.’
‘Here’s to us.’
The rest of the lights in the arena turn on, revealing dozens of other people. Quickly looking through the fray, I find Tanner’s family, players from other teams, even my old team from back in Boston. If there were a word I could use to describe what I’m feeling, it wouldn’t even be a proper word as everyone joins in a giant chorus.
‘Here’s to all that we kissed,’
‘and to all that we missed.’
‘To the biggest mistakes that we just wouldn’t trade.’
‘To us breaking up,’
‘without us breaking down.’
‘To whatever’s coming our way.’
The arena explodes in a giant wave of singing.
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to love!’
‘All the times that we fucked up!’
‘Here’s to you!’
‘Fill the glass!’
‘Cause the last few days have kicked my ass!’
‘So let’s give ‘em hell!’
‘Wish everybody well!’
Through the large crowd of people surrounding me, I see a small bit of movement as someone weaves their way past others.
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to love!’
‘All the times that we messed up!’
‘Here’s to you!’
‘Fill the glass!’
‘Cause the last few nights have kicked my ass!’
‘If they give you hell!’
‘Tell ‘em go fuck themselves!’
‘Here’s to us!’
The person weaving through the crowd finally gets to the front and I can’t believe my eyes. Standing in an absolutely pristine suit, looking as incredibly handsome as ever, is Tanner. He slowly walks closer to me, a smile on his face, as the music suddenly cuts out. But the singing keeps going.
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to us!’
Tanner keeps walking toward me before coming to a stop not even two feet in front of me.
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to love!’
‘Here’s to us!’
There is a wetness on my face I haven’t even noticed until right now. And I don’t make any effort to wipe it away.
‘Here’s to us!’
‘Here’s to love!’
‘Here’s to us!’
Tanner flashes the most brilliant smile I’ve ever seen as everything cuts to silence.
“Here’s to us,” Tanner quietly whispers.
The arena stays completely silent as I feel every single eye on the two of us. “D-Did you do this?” I quietly ask.
He smiles even brighter than he already is. “I wanted to give you something that I know would last for a lifetime. Are you ever going to forget something like this?”
I glance at everyone around us for a moment before looking back at Tanner. “But…why?”
He quietly chuckles to himself. “Because I wanted to show you how much you mean to me, Greg. To me, you’re the most important person in the world. More than ten years ago, I never realized how much of an incredible, passionate, loving, and caring man you are. And I was a fucking idiot for not realizing it back then.
“But you came back into my life in such a spectacular way that I’ll never be able to forget it. Even before I realized how much I love you, I felt a connection with you that I never felt with any other person before. And now that I have that connection, that bond with you, I want to preserve and treasure that bond for the rest of my life.”
My heart jumps to my throat and I watch as Tanner digs into his jacket pocket and drops down into a single knee on the ice. He pulls out a small velvet box and holds it up in front of him, popping it open. Sitting inside is the most brilliant and beautiful silver ring I have ever seen.
Sparkling brightly in the overhead lights, I see a small engraving on the outside of the ring.
‘To you and me. To us.’
More tears drip out of the corners of my eyes. “Greg, will you make me the absolute luckiest man to be alive? Will you make my life complete and marry me?”
A small sob finally manages to escape my throat and I wipe my eyes as dry as I can. I look Tanner straight in the eye. “Only if I can do the same for you.”
The biggest grin I’ve ever seen splits Tanner’s face. He slides the ring onto my finger, an absolutely perfect fit, and jumps up and pulls me into him. Everyone around us loudly cheers as Tanner picks me up and spins me around as I cry into his shoulder. “Thank you,” he whispers into my ear. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”
“I should be the one thanking you,” I whisper back.
Coming to a stop, he looks down at me and runs a thumb over my eyes. Feeling a smile on my own face, I pull him into a soft and tender kiss. Breaking away, I reach into my pocket and place my favorite thing between my lips and blow. An ear-splitting whistle echoes through the arena, causing everyone to jump.
Running out of breath, I let the whistle drop into my hand and take a step away from Tanner. “Thank you all for being here,” I say, slipping into my coach mindset. “But I must remind you all that the Kings have practice right now. So unless you all want to join them in their crawling along the ice, I suggest you all move to the bleachers if you want to see someone spitting up blood.”
“Ooh! Blood spitting!” A slender arm wraps around my shoulders and long hair tickles my neck. “Can I stay and watch?”
Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I look over at her. “Yes, Mom. You can sit with Tanner’s family.”
“Woo! Everyone off the ice! I want some blood spitting!”
She quickly ushers everyone off the ice and into the stands, leaving just me, Tanner, and the rest of the Kings players. I look over at my team. “You have about sixty seconds to get your helmets and sticks before you all do fifty suicides.”
They all jump and rush for the locker room. “Tanner! You have three minutes to change! A second late and I’ll make sure you pay for it later!”
“I hope that means you’ll take charge in the bedroom!” he calls back as he runs to the locker room.
The crowd of people in the bleachers laughs and I resist the urge to smile. Not even a minute later, most of the team comes back with their helmets. Tanner joins a couple of minutes later, fully dressed. “Kings! Ten laps! Let’s go! Tanner, you stretch first then join them.”
The team gets to their laps and Tanner stretches next to me. “I could skate a marathon right now I’m so over the moon,” he says.
“Do you want me to take you up on that offer?”
He rolls his eyes and laughs. I gaze over the crowd of family and friends watching our practice. As I look, I find a single person in the back of the bleachers, standing by himself. Focusing on him, I see a laptop sitting in front of him, his fingers flying over the keys. But I also see that he isn’t even looking at the keyboard, but rather everything else around him.
The guy gives me a very small smile before raising his hand and snapping his fingers, disappearing right before my very eyes. “Y-You just saw that right?” I ask Tanner.
“Yup,” he says very nonchalantly. “R.A. must have been popping in.”
I still don’t completely know about that guy. “You’ve stretched enough,” I say to Tanner. “Get that sexy butt of yours moving.”
“Yes, Coach Natick.”
He quickly lifts his helmet and gives me a kiss before joining the rest of his teammates, everyone around us catcalling and wooing. Jesus Christ, I’m surrounded by weirdos. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.
I watch as practice goes underway, Gregory running his team ragged. But I notice that every single one of them seems to be perfectly happy with what’s going on. Guess I made too perfect of a coach. Maybe too perfect of a world. But it’s the world I wanted to create. And I did.
I shut my laptop and zip it closed before tucking it under my arm and rising out of my seat. I take one last look over the world in front of me. I’ll be sad to see it go. But seeing the accomplishment I’ve done with this will make it all worthwhile.
I slowly raise my hand, pressing my thumb and middle finger together tightly. So long, everyone. Don’t go too crazy now because I’m always watching. My fingers snap, and the world cuts to black.
Well, that's a bit different than other stories I've read. But I decided to take a risk with it. And I hope it turned out well and you all enjoyed it. Now, the message I promised. As some of you may remember, I promised I would create a superhero story after this series is finished. I've already started working on it and I should be able to get the first chapter out pretty soon.
My semester at school is almost finished, so I'm going to have quite a bit of free time to write. The workload for next semester should be pretty light, so that'll mean I'll have more free time. But as I've said in the past, school comes first for me. If schoolwork becomes too much for me, the writing will have to take a back burner and wait.
So...yeah. That's the end of the Am I...? series. Thank you all so much for those of you that have been here since the beginning, and those of you that have found my stories only recently. I hope you've all enjoyed the journeys all the characters have taken. And I have a bit of a surprise with this.
With this series, I'm probably going to go back into all of them and start reworking them from the beginning. I want to get these stories out there. So I'm going to try self-publishing all of these stories on Kindle. Now this is only in the planning stages as of right now. But if I make developments with it, I'll be sure to let you all know.
But if I do get these stories published, I'm going to need to take them off of this site. Yes, I know it kind of sucks, but if I'm trying to sell these stories I'm not going to have them out there for free. I will be reworking all of these stories from the beginning. There will likely be some changes to these stories, but I've leave the integral stuff in there.
Thank you all so much again for reading this series. I'll be back soon. Take care.