Book 2

SOPHOMORE YEAR

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 14

TO THOSE WHO BREAK A BOND

The water was dancing happily in the pool, seemingly glad about the bodies constantly moving on its rippling surface, its blue bubbles sparkling against the even bluer skies.

Some were doing breaststrokes, others were doing butterflies, a few were doing backstrokes, but most were just free styling above the waves - letting their bodies flow through the lanes as fast as they could. I glanced at the other pool - where the others were playing water polo. I wanted to join, but my thoughts got the best of me. Me and my team mates were practicing hard, doing our very best for the upcoming competition.

Competition.

It was the idea that made me shudder and not the coolness of the water against my partially submerged legs. I was joining my very first swimming competition. And I was fucking excited!

An Inter-School Swimming Meet was arranged between the schools from the Irvine Unified School District, and Irvine High School gladly volunteered to hold it in our Woollet's Aquatic Center. Every participant has to register himself to join the competition by paying a reasonable amount of money. There were no cash prizes or trophies involved, though, because all of the competition's proceeds will go to the several charities around the area, but this does not stop us from joining the game. What's a little gold compared to the glory that we can give to God by joining, right?

[Whoa. I don't know how I just sounded right there! But . . . Whatever! Haha.]

I sighed deeply.

"Do you always do that?"

I looked up as I heard the voice - startled out of my daydream - forgetting that the sun was still high on the skies, and my eyes squinted at the sudden blast of brightness. As soon as my vision cleared, I realized that someone I did not recognize was bending down - his hands on his knees - and talking to me.

"Um." was the only thing I could say as my mind suddenly went blank.

'This guy is cute!' My ever horny subconscious gasped. Asian, definitely. I blinked and looked at him better. The first thing I noticed - after his cute face - was the curly, dark brown hair that was pasted on his temple, wet from the pool water. He was wearing nothing but a bright orange Speedo - and DAMN! - I was speechless. The tiny piece of clothing hid nothing. I can clearly see the thick, flaccid delight hidden under, just waiting for me to gobble it up. But I shook my head off with the idea. I realized that his body type was like mine - toned and muscular in just the right places. To think of it, we could probably be considered as look-alikes. Well, except maybe for our complexions. He was naturally tanned due to his Asian heritage, compared to my natural American fair skin. Small droplets of water were still clinging to the curves of his muscular body. And the guy was probably a couple inches shorter than me - roughly 5'3", I guess.

So . . . he was a swimmer like me! I, then, concluded to the obvious.

"Hi." he greeted, and to think he couldn't get any cuter, he smiled at me and offered me his muscular hand. "I'm Jaime dela Cruz."

Seeing his proffered hand brought me back to my senses. I took it wordlessly, compelled by the softness, despite its angular features.

He smiled again. "Um. Sorry. I didn't catch that." he said.

"Huh?" I mumbled confusedly. "What?"

He chuckled. "Your name, silly!"

"Oh." Inside my head, my subconscious was slapping my brain back to its normal shape. And it worked. "Shit, I'm sorry!"

"Oh, nice to meet you, Sorry." he raised an eyebrow.

This guy's bubbly. Shaking my head, I giggled before answering. "I'm Daniel . . . silly."

"It's nice to officially make your acquaintance," he said, "Daniel."

The way he said my name made my cheeks flush with endorphin-induced blood. He must have noticed it because he was chuckling again.

"So," he sat beside me on the pool's ledge, letting his legs slide into the water like mine. "Do you do that often?"

This confused me. What did I miss? Did he just ask me something?

"What do I do often?" I asked, looking at him.

"Well . . . every day after you've had your laps at practice, you would sit here and look at . . . well, I don't know what you're looking at, actually. Space, maybe?" he explained in a very clear accent, "I would always see this sort of expression on your face that's just . . . blank."

"Oh." That's how I look? Does my face really look as catatonic as Kristen Stewart's? "Really? I haven't noticed."

He just shrugged as he looked at the others, still doing their laps. I heard Coach Connor yelling at someone, probably telling him how dumb he is to not be able to do a decent breast stroke. I shuddered. Douglas could be really scary sometimes. Totally hot, but really scary. I remember how he looked when I got in their apartment using Richie's spare keys. God, I was scared to death I just stood on the doorway and froze.

I had to ask Richie the reason why his father acted that way. But the only answer he would give me is a name. Beau Hamilton. I gave up after my thousandth query on who Beau Hamilton was.

"What are you thinking of?" I heard Javier say beside me. And that brought me back to real-time California.

"Nothing really," I replied, I never even noticed that sarcasm was thick in my voice, "Just how fucking fantastic my life is."

"Oh, sorry to hear that." he sighed then muttered to himself. "Pagsubok lang naman 'yan, eh! Malalampasan mo 'yan, sigurado."

I turned to him, an amused and curious smile spreading across my face. "What did you just say?"

"Oh," he looked at me, a blush tinting his face, "Sorry. I mumble when I'm nervous."

I make him nervous? I had to chuckle with the idea.

"But to answer your question, Daniel, I said that 'They are just challenges. I'm sure you'll overcome them.'" Jaime said.

I beamed at him and muttered "Thanks." I could really use all kinds of encouragements right now.

Then changing the subject, I asked. "So . . . are you new to school?" I said slyly, "'Cause I swear I haven't seen you before. And just what language did you just speak back there?"

"Oh," he replied, beaming, "I'm here through the Student Exchange Program. I'm from the Philippines," and added, "and that was our dialect."

"Oh, really? That's interesting." I replied with delight. "I'm glad for that. I haven't met many Filipinos. Well . . . of course, I've met some, but not like this." And I stopped mumbling and stifled a laugh. I took a deep breath. "I'm glad we met, Jaime."

He just smiled at my comicality and said "Well . . . I'm glad I met you, too, Daniel."

Jaime and I continued chatting for the next ten minutes about him and his country before Coach Connor dismissed us from practice. When I noticed the time on the clock across the pool area, I hurriedly gathered my things and turned to Jaime, who was still tidying his things up.

"Listen, Jaime, I have to go ahead. I'm meeting my friends tonight for a reporting this Friday. But, I'll catch you later, okay? And it was really nice to meet you." I said to him and I left.

~*~*~*~*~

17th November 2010, Wednesday

He groaned as he released everything he's been storing since that unexpected occasion in the Alumni Building. That time, he hadn't had the chance to come because, for some unexplained, unexpected reason, that freaking 10th grader - Daniel Mockins - came into the usually deserted bathroom and disrupted their erotic session. They had chosen that certain bathroom because they knew that barely anyone would use it. But not that afternoon. Daniel came in and cut them off in mid-suck. Shit, he had been so pissed off that time. He got blue-balls right after that. Not to mention that Daniel saw him coming out of the bathroom! DOUBLE SHIT!

The guy kneeling before him, finally suckling everything he could give, licked the head of his cock before standing up. He grinned. "God, I missed that!"

"Thank you so much for that, baby." He chuckled and stroked the other guy's cheeks. "If we didn't meet today, I don't know if I would've had the strength to hold it any longer. I would probably explode in Chemistry and I would have to explain why I had sticky substances on my pants and I wouldn't even fucking care! When can you-"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! TYLER!" the guy chuckled, amused of his chattering. "Dude, relax!"

"But, what if-"

"Relax, okay? I can't believe you're even worse than my Grandpa!"

"You give blowjobs to your Grandpa?" Tyler gasped in surprise.

"What! Of course not!" the guy exclaimed while slapping Tyler softly with his feminine hands. "But that's not my point. Jeesh!" Then in a sexier voice, he whispered, "Give me a call if you want my . . . services. And I'll gladly be there. Okay? But for now, I'm late for class . . . so . . ." the guy then turned and - bending over - retrieved his bag and books from the tiled floor, momentarily displaying the thing that attracted Tyler to him from the very beginning.

'God, that ass! The things that I would do to it!' Tyler shook his head before his cock would have the chance to stir and he nodded to the guy, the grin still hasn't vanished from his blood-flushed face. "Hey." he whispered softly.

The other guy looked up.

'God, this guy is really sexy!' He thought. "Thank you again." Tyler whispered, deep appreciation in his voice. "For this. And for not telling anyone."

The other guy flashed a full set of sparkling white teeth. "Anytime, stud." He stood on his toes and softly kissed Tyler's smiling lips and got out of the cubicle - little "Tylers" swimming towards the depths of his gut.

~*~*~*~*~

I just got out to the hallway after a crappy lunch when I saw Daniel and Richard walk through the double doors of the cafeteria, flanked by some of the students from their respective classes. I saw Jonathan, Stacey, Tessa, Diane, Carter and Isabella from our year and Tyler, Garrett and Kylie from Richard's year. And there, conversing with Tyler was this other guy whom I've never seen before. I thought I was hallucinating, but at first glance, I thought he was Daniel's darker twin. But, as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I immediately shrugged it off.

No one can possibly be like Daniel. Daniel is unique. He's special. He's genuine. He's . . . Daniel.

Wonder and curiosity swarmed around my mind as I witnessed this peculiar group trudge along the crowded hallways. What the hell were Tyler and Garrett doing with this crowd? They passed me and both Tyler and Garrett gave me fist bumps. We made quite a show by talking loudly and exaggerating things - like how stereotypical jocks act. We were team mates, we were cool, and that was how we greeted each other.

"Hey, Ty!" I greeted garishly, risking a glance at Daniel and wondering stupidly if he was thinking how cool I was. How I wished. He wasn't looking, and my spirits quickly dampened, so I shrugged it off and focused my attention to Tyler and Garrett's ever-shifting mouths. "Where's Murphy, man? He's always with you."

"Bruce, my man!" Tyler responded coolly, "Murphy's in detention, bro. I thought you knew what happened? He and Princeton had a row yesterday at lunch, man! They trashed the place! The food servers were delirious and, as soon as the ramble was stopped, they sent them both to the Principal's office." he said rather boisterously, and, for a second, I noticed Daniel's anxious eyes look our way, "Well . . . why don't you walk with us, bro? I'll tell you all the deets! Come one, man. Let's go!"

God, these dudes are such gossips! I rolled my eyes once in amusement, and taking the chance, I said, "Yeah. Sure." Shrugging Murphy and Keith out of my mind, I followed Daniel and his march.

But only after a few minutes along the way, as we reached a fork on the road - so to speak, Daniel and my classmates said quick goodbyes to the others. I knew why. We needed to turn left for AP Biology and the others needed to use the other direction to reach their own respective classes.

I lagged awkwardly among the group, with only Carter, Jonathan and the new guy talking to me. But it was the new guy - Jaime, he told me - who was cool enough to talk to me about things that was not in line with our curriculum. At that short walk, I learned he was a Filipino, plays various kinds of instruments, has a clear accent, and is a member of the school's Swim/Water Polo Team like Daniel.

We kept a couple dozen yards to our distance because Daniel was busy chatting with the girls up on the front, and I didn't want to make him uncomfortable with my presence.

After hearing Jonathan apologize for letting Daniel let Miranda join the group instead of me, I noticed a commotion from up ahead. The moment I saw him sneering and shouting as he ran towards our direction, I knew something bad was about to happen.

"Shit!" I hissed and Jaime's eyes widened with alarm, and I thought, 'Detention must be over.'

"What?" he asked.

Instinctively, I ran the distance that separated me from Daniel, trying very hard to reach him in time - to give him cover, to protect him. I know the look on Murphy's face. It was the look that I have practiced numerous times in front of the mirror at home to scare other people. It was my 'bully' look. And now for the very first time, as I see it displayed all over Murphy's already ugly face, I realized how scary it can really be. Murphy looked menacing.

Above the crowd, I shouted Daniel's name. I immediately realized that that was a foolish thing to do, and I wanted to hit myself for doing such a stupid thing. Murphy was almost behind him now. I cursed again when Daniel looked back across the crowd and saw me running for him. He gave me an irritated 'what-now?' look before Murphy finally got him.

My eyes widened with shock as I watched Daniel fly sideways - his purple beret dropped from his head, his bag ripped from their straps, his books and papers tumbled on the floor.

Murphy howled with laughter when we all heard a horrible cracking sound when Daniel's head hit the wall. Glass shattered. Trophies fell. And a wave of panic and trepidation rushed throughout the crowd.

"No!" I shouted, terror flowing through my veins and my heart pounded with rage as I continued running. Daniel vanished from my view. I grabbed Murphy as soon as he came within my reach and I sent him several meters across the floor with my fist. "Murphy, that's enough!" I yelled angrily at him. "What the hell are you doing?!"

Nursing his jaw six meters from me, he slowly stood up. "We're not at the top anymore, Bruce. Keith sends his regards!" he hissed before quickly running out of there.

"You'll pay for this, you fucking shit!" I growled at his retreating figure before I hurried to the huddle where Daniel fell. I pushed my way through the crowd - the debris from the trophy case crushing under my feet - and kneeled where Daniel was facedown. Plaques, trophies and medals scattered all around. I turned him over despite his protests and immediately noticed the streaks of red splattered on his face and on his arms.

Blood.

There was too much blood. The sight angered me and I suddenly remembered my mother.

Daniel's face was bloody. He had gashes along his cheeks and on top of his forehead where they collided with the glass, his nose was bleeding heavily, and on his arms and elbows were cuts made, too, by the glass. He winced as I helped him sit up.

"Ow." He groaned when I held his head up to look for other possible damages. Thankfully, there were none.

"Sorry." I said ruefully, and then I grabbed his arms. "Come on. Let's get you up. I have to take you to the clinic."

His eyes, which were previously stupefied with the impact, suddenly snapped to me at this, and he said in a trembling voice, "Um, it's okay, Bruce. I'm alright."

I fought the urge to laugh at him and his stubbornness. What the hell? He's bleeding all over the place and he's saying he's alright? Yeah, right! "No, you're not alright, Daniel." I snapped through gritted teeth, "Please, let me take you."

"Then, Stacey can take me." he hopefully looked at his friends, and Stacey, who was kneeling opposite me, started to heave Daniel up. "Or Jonathan?"

Hurriedly, while Daniel's eyes were not on me, I glared at Stacey and Jonathan and they immediately backed off. "I'll take you. Come." I said without looking at him, my eyes still jumping from Stacey to Jonathan's hesitant figures.

"But-"

"For Christ's sake, Daniel! You're bleeding! Do we really have to argue about this right now?" I shouted at him. The people around us flinched as one.

Daniel's lips twitched and he looked down. Then, without looking at me, I heard him say "Fine. Let's go."

I held his arms as he slowly started to stand up. Then, "Ow!" he cries. He couldn't stand.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"I think I twisted an ankle." he said and he struggled to his feet. "Shit!"

"Here." I tentatively grabbed his right arm and slowly draped it on my shoulders, and I helped him stand, controlling the rage that kept boiling inside me.

The crowd broke up as we made our way to the clinic. Whenever people saw us, they would start muttering loudly about what just happened. Not even wondering if Daniel was alright. Blood kept dripping from the cuts on his arms. I tried to ignore them and focused on bringing him to safety.

Just a few more turns remained, but with Daniel hopping on his right foot and the crowd not taking the initiative to make way, it'd take us forever.

"Here. Use this." I offered my handkerchief to him when the audience lessened. "We don't want our hallways to look like a murder scene, do we?"

He narrowed my eyes at me but he didn't say anything. He just took it and held it to his bleeding nose.

While he was busy tending to his nose, I quickly swooped down and took hold of the back of his knees, and cradled him in my arms. A shrill of protests came out of Daniel's mouth, telling me to put him down that instant. I never listened.

"We can get there faster this way." I muttered.

Through his bloody lips, he continued ranting and cursing about how embarassing it was for him until we arrived at the clinic. Mrs. Fowler - the school nurse - was writing something on her desk when I came in supporting a limping Daniel.

"Goodness! What happened?" she gasped when she saw Daniel's wreck-of-a-face before standing up and doing her job. She guided us further into the clinic and we laid Daniel on one of the beds in the room, the sheets were instantly covered with droplets of scarlet blood.

Daniel hissed, twitched, swore, muttered and winced while Mrs. Fowler was tending to his wounds. She carefully removed the bits and pieces of glass that stuck to the wounds. Luckily, the lacerations on his face were not too deep. "At least, it doesn't need stitching." And Daniel sighed thankfully when he heard it.

"But these," she exclaimed suddenly. Both our eyes whirled to the injuries on his arms. "Some of these needs stitching."

Daniel's eyes bugged out of their sockets when Mrs. Fowler tended to the cuts on his arms, but he didn't complain. Even dosed with anesthetic, he still took heavy, measured breaths during the entire procudure. Eventually, she gave him something for his nose, too - to stop the bleeding. And after almost an hour, the stitches were done and she got out of the room to get antibiotics and pain-relievers.

When Mrs. Fowler returned, she explained that the twist in Daniel's ankle was nothing major. "It just needs at least a couple of days of rest and you'll be good as new." she said.

Daniel's eyes widened when he heard this. "Two days?" he exclaimed, "But we have this major reporting on Friday! I can't miss that. That's almost half our final grades for this semester! And not to mention training! The season is just around the corner and I'm not even half as impressive as anyone in the team yet. Coach Connor is going to kill me! Can't you give me something to accelerate the healing process?"

But, Mrs. Fowler was resolved. "You need to rest, young man. You're cut pretty badly, your ankle's twisted, your entire body is physically bruised! It's just for two days! It can't be that bad." Then she added, "Let me take care of Douglas."

Daniel didn't notice, but Mrs. Fowler's face had a dreamy, fluttery look to her when she spoke my uncle's name. Yuck! I wanted to laugh at her. Widows can be amusingly disgusting sometimes!

Daniel sunk deeper in his pillow, throwing his hands gently over his eyes. "Fuck! Just my luck! I forgot - my mom's going to kill me, too."

Mrs. Fowler rolled her eyes at Daniel's hysterics. "And you," she turned to me for the very first time, "I must say, I'm shocked to see you here!"

I wanted to ask her why, but she was already rambling along.

"Do you know the name that most number of my patients were muttering here last year before they lost consciousness?" she said dramatically while squinting at me with a pointed finger. "Yours, Bruce Adams! You're their number one culprit!"

My mouth fell open with shock and amusement. I wanted to defend myself but I can't even move a single muscle. Did she really have to tell me that? Out of the corner of my eyes, slightly obscured by his heavily bandaged palms, I saw Daniel's lips twitch into a smile.

"You should get back to class, Mr. Adams. You've done your part here." Mrs. Fowler cut in, "Daniel will stay here until his parents will arrive."

Then she immediately got out of the room and left me with my mouth open. I was ready to protest and say 'No. I have to stay here,' but she was already gone. So, instead, I sat on the bed to Daniel's left. I took out my phone and started typing a short message. After I stashed my phone back to my jeans pocket, an uncomfortable silence dwelled around the tiny room. For weeks, I have wished to talk to him. Just the two of us. To ask him why? And to tell him everything. I wanted to tell him everything. But, now that I was alone with him, I didn't know what to say. Well . . . to make things clearer, I know what to say, but I just don't know how to say it. I didn't know how to start.

"Daniel, are you al-"

"You didn't have to do it, you know." Daniel cut in.

I looked at him and I saw that he was now sitting up - and he was looking at me. The bandages on his cheeks and on his forehead were flaws to his perfect features - shrouding the beauty that lies beneath. As we sat, bruises were already starting to show alongside the other injuries on his arms. Fuck! How could Keith do this?! That sudden urge to cross the room and engulf him in my arms overwhelmed me. The anger swelled inside me and it turned to rage; the rage burst into pain, and the pain emerged as a craving need. My hands trembled for his touch, for his skin, for his face. Just a single touch.

And I thought, 'This is an exception, right? He's hurt.' I convinced myself.

Then, after long months of resisting myself, I finally gave in.

I let myself slide on the floor next to his bed and I threw my arms around him, hugging him softly to me. He winced but he didn't push me back. 'Oh, God!' I rejoiced in my mind. It was only 'til then have I realized how I have truly longed for him. The feelings that I have buried for too long burst through the iciness of my soul and formed warm, bitter tears when they reached the surface of my eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Daniel." I whispered shakily. "God, I missed you so much!" And with those words I felt him relax into my embrace. I was so overjoyed I closed my eyes to keep the happy tears from falling. But as soon as I did it, my mother's face came into view, a haunting and disgusted look dominating her features.

And I pulled back.

I saw he was crying. I pulled further back.

Daniel's confusion shocked me and I stumbled as I stood, backing away from him.

"I'm so sorry." I shook my head and I looked down - to avoid his gaze, to hide the sorrow in my eyes. "I can't do this. I'm so sorry." Then I ran out.

"Bruce!" I heard him call weakly for me.

But I ran out of the room, out of the clinic, to anywhere but Daniel's side - my mother's words chanting in my head, 'Fight your feelings, Bruce. Don't let it conquer you. For the thing that you want from him is something that you should never have. You can never have him.'

I can never have him. And I cried.

~*~*~*~*~

I have just taken my seat for the next class when Stacey, with a wild look on her face, came into the room and slapped the shit out of me. She hit me so hard I tasted blood on my tongue.

"What the-"

"HOW COULD YOU?" she snapped without giving me the chance to finish talking. "You're a monster, Keith! I can't believe I ever loved you, you monster! MONSTER!" And she hit me with her bag and slammed her fists at me.

"Stacey, what the hell?" I cried amidst her attacks.

But she kept on attacking me. I looked around for help, but everyone was just staring at me. Even Amalia Goulding - the most withdrawn in our class and who never gave anyone any kind of attention - was glaring at me. They were all glaring at me. All of their faces masked with the same emotions - disbelief, hatred, disgust. What the hell happened during lunch while I was serving detention?

I turned my attention back to Stacey and her futile attempts of killing me. I grabbed the bag that she was using for my murder. It was black - probably, leather - with a shoulder strap. It looks like a satchel - only with more room for her books and such. It was nothing special. I pulled it towards me and that was when I saw the small 'The Avengers' badge pinned on its front - splashed with something that suspiciously resembled droplets of blood. My eyebrows rose in recognition and a bad feeling suddenly came over me.

That badge was once mine. I was sure of that. The design was from the very first edition and it was one of the collector's items, and I knew that not very many were able to find it, not to mention, afford it, so I was pretty sure that it was mine.

"Why is that with you?" I demanded while Stacey tried to rip the bag from my hands. I fought with her for a bit before letting her take it from my hands.

"Oh, you care more for the bag than for its owner?" she shrieked. "Unbelievable!"

"I was talking about the badge, Stacey." I tried to steady my voice, to no avail. My panic was rising. "Why is that badge with you? Who gave you that? Why is it on that bloody bag?"

"What badge? You, bastard, don't change the topic! And this isn't my bag, Keith!" she slammed it on my head one more time before answering; "It's Daniel's."

"Oh." Danny's. I sighed with relief. I really thought he gave my - his - badge to Stacey. I looked up to a Stacey who was gritting her teeth with anger.

"Oh." she snapped acridly, "Oh? That's all?"

I just looked at her like she was an animal at the petting zoo.

"You send the guy to the clinic and all you can say is 'Oh'?" she exclaimed.

My eyes widened with alarm. "WHAT?"

"Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention. You know Murphy, right?" she asked sarcastically and the bad feeling that I had earlier worsened. "Well, he paid Daniel a visit earlier. And you know where Daniel is now? He's in the freaking clinic! Bleeding to his fucking death!"

I was already out of the door before her words were out of her mouth. I dashed past a surprised Ms. Barker and sprinted as fast as I can to the west side of the campus. Fuck AP Biology!

I turned towards the hallways, and that's where I saw the trophy case - or what was left of it. What the hell happened here? Panic arising, I ran down a couple steps, passed through several offices, rounded five or more corners, and finally stepped onto the school clinic's white-tiled floors - only to be slammed back outside. I fell to the floor on my behind with an agonized groan. Dazed and heaving from running across the entire campus, I looked up and saw the reason for my premature eviction from the room.

"Where is he?" from where I was, I growled at him.

His teary face shifted alarmingly from sadness to anger.

'How dare he cry!' I thought angrily.

He stepped outside the doors and looked down on me. "How could you?" he strode towards me and grabbed the collar of my shirt, repeating the same old question that had earlier been asked by Stacey. "He's your friend!"

And now, I'm really pissed off. What the hell did I do? I freed myself from his grip and stood up without answering and tried to sidestep him towards the double doors.

"You don't want to do that," Bruce warned - his voice as cold as ice, again blocking my way. "If you even try to-"

"Ah, enough with the cliches, Adams, and just stop me if you want!" I gave him a stony look right before I disregarded his pathetic threat and walked towards the room, shoving him hard with one of my shoulders. I stopped just when I had my back to him. With a hiss, I told him. "You should know better than to stay around him, Bruce. Your actions make me noxious!"

His eyes widened with shock. It was ruthless and obdurate. It was inhumane. And I regretted how harsh I may have sounded. But, I knew deep in my heart that my intentions were clear - I don't want him around Danny.

I gazed at my feet before I entered the clinic. Down below, noticeably enough, a trail of tiny droplets of red marred the tiled floor. Blood.

Danny's blood.

My breathing hiked when my feet took a step, then another - following the trail of blood that led to my heart.

~*~*~*~*~

I was sobbing, facing the opened blinds of the clinic, replaying everything in my head - from the time we got out of the cafeteria to the moment when he went out of the room.

'How could he?' my subconscious whispered weakly. 'He helps you and, once he sees that you'll be fine, he leaves you alone once again.'

I don't know how to do this anymore. It's been months since we've had a decent talk, and I seriously have many things to discuss with him. I have been telling myself that we both needed this - separation - and that we can't just act based on our feelings. Once upon a time, I may have been right. But now? I don't know anymore.

Who was I kidding? I have been happier when I was with him. My brain tells me that I should be where I was happy and be with the one who makes me happy. That's what I should have done in the first place.

But, what did I do? I let fear consume me. I keep thinking about what other people might say, what other people might do. I was afraid that once they knew about us, pandemonium would turn into hell. This gut feeling that I have keeps telling me that what we have is wrong. And, the fearing bastard that I was, I kept listening to it.

Not anymore! When I get out of this room and these stupid bandages, I should make it my number one goal to be with Bruce. I want to be happy again. I want to smile and mean it. So, I'll need Richie and Stacey's help.

I acknowledged the door being cracked open. My body stiffened and I pretended to be asleep on my side - still facing away from the door.

'Let's hear what he has to say, first, Danny.' my subconscious tells me cunningly.

It must be him. Now, why is he back so soon? 'I can't do this.' What does that even mean? He can't do what? Be with me? Touch me? What does he mean?

The door creaked loudly when he entered. I didn't notice that my tears were still falling steadily onto my pillow, drenching the half side of it. I tried to control my breathing and contain my sobs.

Footsteps echoed across the silent walls, slowly walking towards where I was lying. When the echoes stopped, I felt someone sit behind me. The bed shifted to his weight and a sweet, familiar scent tickled my nostrils, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't put a finger to it.

Oh, Bruce. I so wanted to turn around and ask him why? I wanted to tell him how confused I was right now and I wanted to tell him I was sorry. I wanted to say that I was a fool and I wanted to cry to him about my best friend. I wanted to tell him about how I missed him so. About how I missed the both of them. A million questions and ideas formulated in my head, all of which I couldn't voice out. I let the silent tears fall out of my eyes.

I heard him catch his breath spasmodically. Was he crying, too?

Then, as soft as a feather, a finger stroked my cheek. It was just a slight touch, connecting with the tiniest cells on my face, but it brought tingles down my spine. My body shuddered and I promptly reminded myself that I was supposed to be sleeping.

The feather left my face when it reached the skin above my lips, leaving me frustrated. I heard him sob and a very soft 'sorry' - softer than a whisper, I wouldn't have heard it if I wasn't listening - escaped his lips. The bed shifted and eventually returned to its natural shape. The footsteps returned, but unlike earlier, it was walking away from me. The door creaked open and, as soft as a silent thud, it closed once again.

I quickly turned around, shortly forgetting that I was stitched-up and heavily bandaged. I gasped with pain while I viewed my surroundings. The door was closed, the other beds were still empty, the blinds were untouched. It was as if the last two minutes did not even happen.

My head fell to my lap and tears silently streamed down my cheeks to my upturned hands. I gripped my hands tightly and shook my head in disappointment. Blood came out of the cuts on my palm.

Then, something round and shiny caught my attention. Through my tear-streaked eyes, I saw it - glinting from the soft rays of sunlight gleaming through the opened blinds.

My badge.

I held it in my hand. But what was it doing here?

And then, with a rush of euphoria - despite everything that has happened between us - realization dawned upon me.

Only he could know the meaning behind this badge.

That was him! The familiar scent - it was his eucalyptus toothpaste and his favorite bodyspray! That smell was once a part of my everyday life, I can't believe I even forgot it. That was him!

Keith was just here!

*End of Chapter 14*

 

Nerdy Jock

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