I still had the task of cleaning out Justin's locker for real. I went to the school mid morning. There were a few more days of classes for the rest of the school so I waited outside till I heard the bell ring for the next class then made my way quietly through the gym to the locker room. I tapped lightly on Coach's closed door. After several seconds I heard his muffled, "Come in." I tried the door but it was locked. A minute later he unlocked it.
"Sorry, I didn't know it was locked," he said. He looked a little flushed in the face and he didn't open the door all the way.
"Just wanted you to know I was here; I came to empty Justin's locker."
"All right, good."
"You said we would retire his jersey. Are we going to have some kind of ceremony?" I asked.
"Yes, if you can get the seniors on the team rounded up. Nothing elaborate, just the team together for a remembrance."
"If I can use your phone I can probably get hold of most of them right now," I said. I realized immediately that it was a mistake, from the deer-in-the-headlights look. He had someone in his office.
"Well, I.....I'm in the middle of something I really need to get....."
"Why don't you let him come in, Coach."
I recognized Damon's voice. Red faced, Coach stepped back from the door. I almost didn't go in. I didn't want to embarrass anyone, but my curiosity was piqued, the temptation too great. I went in to find Damon slouched back on the arm of the big old, leather couch, naked except for his socks, stroking his massive cock. His chest glistened with sweat from some recent, strenuous activity. I was completely surprised to see Cory Brant, too, standing behind the couch with one hand over the front of his shorts, although all I could see was the waistband. It struck me as odd that the couch was moved out from the wall; it was always pushed up against the wall. I heard the lock click shut behind me.
"Welcome to sex ed 101," Damon joked with his bright-white grin.
"Cory, uh.....came in to talk to me about.....some concerns he has......," Coach began.
"About his sexuality," Damon finished. "I happened to come down to retrieve a book I left in my locker and volunteered to furnish live visuals."
"You can't tell anybody about this," Cory said in a frightened tone. Cory was a smallish kid, not exactly a nerd, but he wasn't the most popular boy in the junior class. I'd never seen him like this before, and he had a nice, lean build. I wondered what his concerns were.
"Look, I.....this is none of my business," I said to all three of them. "I'll go get started on the locker."
I think Cory and the coach were relieved, but Damon wasn't so anxious for me to leave.
"Why don't you stay, and help me with the live visuals," he said, waving his cock at me.
I didn't know how far the situation had advanced but I knew what he meant; he wanted to demonstrate by having me suck his sock, or by fucking me; probably with the hopes of us convincing Cory to let him shove his huge, black cock in his ass. I didn't really care about Cory's sexuality at the moment, and I didn't feel any desire to take part and find out.
"Maybe another time," I said, and moved to the door.
"You can't tell anybody, please," Cory said again.
I paused with the door unlocked, and smiled at him, with a warm, sympathetic smile. "Don't worry, Cory, your secret is safe with me..... whatever it is. But try to keep the noise down when he shoves that big, black cock in your ass. Unless you want me to go lock the locker room door," I said to the coach.
"No, I'm not getting fucked," Cory blurted. "I was only.....g-going to watch.....and learn.....I don't know if I'm gay or bi, you know, I only wanted to learn more about that kind of sex......"
I nodded. "That's good, Cory. You shouldn't live with those doubts. Face who you are, and accept it."
"I.....I will.....when I know," he stammered.
"The time will come when you'll know," I assured him.
I left and closed the door behind me, and waited to see if the lock clicked. It did. I did the mathematical gymnastics in my head. Damon was straight, I was sure of it, he just liked sex and took it wherever it was available. Coach Baldwin was married, and straight, as far as I knew, he liked sex the same way as Damon. Cory wasn't sure, but he sounded very sure that he wasn't going to get fucked by either one of them. I couldn't reach a definite conclusion, but I was certain that somebody in that room was going to get fucked. For some reason I put my money on Coach Baldwin. It was something I intended to explore at a more appropriate time.
Justin's locker hadn't been touched even though it'd been left wide open. I took the bottle of water and shoved it to the back of the shelf. I gathered up the candy and gum wrappers and held them in my hand for a moment before I thought, what the fuck, and walked over to drop them in the waste basket.
I laid the spiral notebook on the bench, starting a pile that I would take to his dad. I added the baseball cleats and tennis shoes to it, stuffed the shoe laces in one shoe....his batting gloves, and the two towels. I folded his old jockstrap inside his practice shorts and rolled them into his PE shorts. I toyed with the new jockstrap still in the box but then dropped it on the pile. It should rightfully go with the rest of his stuff. I toyed with the condoms and the lube, whether to leave them in his locker, or keep them, or put them in the stuff for his dad. The man would understand.
I put the water bottle on the top shelf. I left his jersey hanging on the hook and left his helmet on top of his locker. I thought that belonged to the school. I rolled everything up in the towels to take them to Jack. At the last minute I tucked the lube and condoms in the towel. I didn't bother to tell the coach I was leaving but I did pass close by his office door to hear some muffled moans and a couple of "Oh Gods." Couldn't tell who it was, but Cory was getting an education of some sort.
Driving to Jack's house I realized how calm and collected I was. There was none of the gut wrenching emotions that I'd been dealing with. Cleaning out the locker was simply a task that had fallen to me.
Jack knew instantly why I was there; his face fell even though he smiled when he asked me in.
"I brought Justin's stuff out of his locker," I said.
"Thanks. That couldn't have been easy for you," he said as he sat down and began loosening the knots in the towels.
"They're going to retire his jersey, I left that in his locker. And his helmet; I think that belongs to the school."
"No, he bought it himself. But that's all right, let the boys use it," he said. I could see him sinking as he laid the stuff out on the coffee table. He flipped through the spiral notebook and laid it aside. He chuckled when he saw the condoms and lube.
"I didn't know if I should include those," I said. I almost told him I'd put one in his casket.
"Kenny, is there any of this stuff you would like to have?" His tone and the way he looked at me, it was like he was pleading with me.
"Well, I.....I would really like to have his old jockstrap."
He picked it up and handed it to me. "How about his PE shorts? They would fit you."
"All right. Thanks." I half expected him to give me the condoms but he didn't.
He laid the shorts on the clean towel and handed them to me. "Take anything else you want," he said.
"No, I think you should keep it."
"I want you to take a couple of the plants home with you. The one you sent, especially. There was obviously some significance in what you ordered; I won't ask why."
It was hard to be there with Jack, and harder to leave. There was an awkward moment at the door when he let me out. In the end he just leaned into me and kissed my cheek. I felt the tears climbing up again so I kissed him back and turned around to leave.
Back home I made some phone calls and later that evening we all gathered in the locker room to place Justin's baseball jersey in history, as Coach put it. I didn't hear much of what he said, I was trying to keep my composure. I'd reached the point where public grief and emotions were no longer appropriate. Justin would understand how I felt but he would expect me to keep it to myself.
Coach asked me if I wanted to say anything. My words were few...."You all know how I felt about him, on and off the field." Then I took a sip of water from the bottle and handed it and the jersey off to Tyler. The guys all had something to say about him as we passed the jersey around, and each one took a sip from the water bottle. I didn't know how that was symbolic, but it was; one last physical connection with our teammate perhaps. Both came back to me. I handed the jersey off to Coach Baldwin. Then I downed what was left of the water and tossed it in the trash can. There was a strange sense of relief as it landed in the plastic liner, that I didn't understand.
"Don't assign his locker to anyone, okay, Coach?" Damon said.
"No, his name stays on his locker for a while. We're going to put Justin's jersey up in the trophy case," Coach said. "But we'll bring it back to his locker when baseball season starts next year."
I couldn't function the same for several weeks after graduation. It scared me a little that I was able to move around in my life like a zombie. I split my time between working, home, Kyle's, the cemetery and the baseball field. I kept going back to the cemetery. I didn't cry, I just went to be there. I had to be near him. And I talked to him. Then after a while I stopped talking to him. The last time, when I just sat there on the new headstone and didn't say anything, I decided I wouldn't come back for a while. At the baseball field I walked the bases, or I stood on home plate and stared out over the field. Those two places, the cemetery and the baseball field, were where I found him. It worried me that I might be getting over him too quickly; outgrowing him.
I also visited Jack, at home, not at the station. We went out to dinner a couple of times, and I slept over a few times. Oddly, we never had sex, although I slept with him in his bed, both of us naked. It was enough just to be together like that. The desire was there, but I thought when Jack was ready, he would make the move. I wondered if he was pretending that I was Justin lying beside him.
Just as oddly, I didn't hang with any of the team. Some of them were playing stallion league but I was done with baseball. The desire to play died with Justin.
Despite the calm demeanor, I had the jitters on the inside. I decided I needed to get away by myself for a few days. Uncle Jerome said I could have the cottage. My parents said they understood. My boss didn't and he fired me. I wasn't the least bit upset. I didn't spend much money anyway, and I had some saved up.
Jack laughed when I called him and told him I got fired. I told him I was going away for a few days.
"My uncle's got a cottage up on the lake."
"Good, it'll do you good." There was a short pause then he said, "Kenny can you drop by for a little bit? Tell your Mom you're staying for supper, I'll put some brats on the grill."
"Sure. That sounds great." I thought he might ready for sex. I was certainly ready.
When I got there Jack was in the back yard at the grill. He told me to bring him a fresh beer out of the cooler and get one for myself. That was a good sign; he wouldn't invite me to drink if I was going to drive home.
I handed him his beer and he handed me a set of keys.
"What're these for?" I asked.
"You said you wanted to get away. Those are the keys to my place in St. Thomas. Your ticket is at the airport. You've got reservations on a six a.m. flight Thursday."
"Jack!" I blurted. "No, you can't do this."
"Why not? The place is vacant. I had my lawyer negotiate a settlement to break the lease. You did get your passport, didn't you?"
"Yes, but....you can't be spending this kind of money on....."
"You should apply for an international drivers license too. I have a car down there."
He held up his hand to silence me. "Kenny, I've got the money," he said flatly. "I inherited quite a sum from my parents, most of which has never been touched. Hell, do you think I needed the job as sheriff? I ran just to see if I could beat that dope, Harlan McQuire. Had no idea I would end up winning. But then I got to liking it, and the people evidently liked the job I was doing cause they kept re-electing me. I didn't even campaign. Hell, once I forgot to get my name on the ballot and won with write-ins. Let me do this."
I felt wonderful and terrible at the same time.
"Get your buns over here with the buns, the brats are ready."
We sat at the picnic table eating and sipping cold beer and it was a good feeling, except for the guilt.
"I can't accept it, Jack," I said.
"Why? Why that sullen look? Wait, don't tell me. You're feeling guilty because you think you're accepting something that belonged to Justin. Well, it did, or it would have, but Justin's not here. Justin's never going to be here again, so what I had planned for him......."
"I can't be Justin for you, Jack. I can't fill his shoes. I wish I could."
"No, but you could help fill the empty hole," Jack said quietly, looking at me across the table. "What does it hurt to let me do these things? It makes me happy."
I started to tear up but I confined it to a couple of tears rolling down my face. "More than anything in the world, I want to see you happy again, Jack."
"Then let me, and you be happy with me." He dropped his head with a sigh and I knew he was having trouble too.
I picked up his beer bottle and touched it to his hand and said, "I'll get you another beer."
"Kenny, I don't want to sound possessive, but.....well, you're all I've got now.."
"Let me finish. I don't mean that to sound like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. I've got no family around here. And I don't want to move to where I've got family. The reason is because I've got you, and that's all I need or want. I don't mean to be pulling you away from your family; just whatever time you've got to spare......."
"The time I spend with you isn't just spare time, Jack. I just don't want you to get too....well, wrapped up in me, and maybe create a situation we both might regret."
"All right, we won't let that happen. Neither one of us. But we did talk about you going to college in St. Thomas. I don't recall you rejecting that idea."
"I would love to but that would involve waiting out a year till you retired."
"No, it wouldn't. I've put in for retirement."
"Yes, I should be drawing checks before the end of the summer. Either way, you don't have to wait on me. You're eighteen, you can go off to college anywhere you want. You don't need me as your guardian. So take this opportunity to go down there and check the place out. The house, the university, the island."
"I've never been that far away from home. I wouldn't know my way around."
"I'll have Juan pick you up at the airport. He'll be driving a little sports car that belonged to my Dad. You'll have it to drive around."
"He's the caretaker-gardener and general handyman. He looks after things outside when I'm not there. I also have a houseboy," he added with a slight smile. "He looks after things on the inside. I think you'll like him. His name's Marco. He's about your age I think, maybe a little younger. It's hard to tell with those people. Cute as fuck, though. Tell me you'll go."
I had to smile at the way he put it. "All right, I'll go. Thanks."
"Good. I'll call Marco so they'll know to expect you. It's a one way ticket, you can stay as long as you like."
That night I had a long talk with my parents and told them I had decided for certain to go to college in St. Thomas and I was going down there to check it out. I reminded my sister to water the plants in my room, but Lisa was most excited to get my car while I was gone. I told them Jack was going to let me stay at his place. I couldn't ignore the look they exchanged.
"Listen, he's retiring and moving down there. I'm going to stay with him. I know you might not approve but..." I couldn't finish the sentence, couldn't admit to my parents that there was more to it.
"It's okay, honey, we understand," my mom said with a pat on my hand.
"But we'll be coming down there for a visit real soon," my dad promised. I wouldn't have expected anything less.
The hardest goodbye was to Kyle. I went over to the basement door that night and knocked softly. He answered and let me in without a word, just like he'd done dozens of times. Especially when I'd been such a wreck after Justin's accident.
"I'm leaving on Thursday. I'm not sure if I'll be back... for a while, Kyle."
"Jack's place?" he asked. I nodded and he understood. We could have a whole conversation with about three words spoken. His face remained impassive but I could see the emotion in his eyes. As if he'd made some kind of decision, he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around my shoulders. I hugged him back and we stood like that for a long time.
Eventually I had myself under control. I put my hands on Kyle's shoulders and turned him toward his bed, gave him a little push towards it. Except for the night with Coach Baldwin I hadn't had sex with anyone since Justin's death. Kyle knew what I was about. We undressed and I got on the bed while he found the lube.
My ass was tight but Kyle knew better than anyone what I needed. There was nothing else to call it but making love as he fucked me long and sweetly. When we were both covered in my cum and his was in my gut I realized that no matter what, Kyle would always be there for me.
"Kyle, I don't want you take this the wrong way...," I started. "I just want you to know that I love you." I rushed to add the next part, "Not in a gay-I'm-in-love kind of way." He nodded and I could tell he was choking up. "You'll always be my best friend and brother. And you'll come visit me, right?"
"Yeah," he mumbled and buried his face against my chest. "What am I gonna do without you, Kenny?"
"Come on, guy. You're going to New York in a few months anyway. We'll talk and email all the time. You'll finally fuck a girl and tell me all about it." I patted his shoulder.
"I like fucking you, though." He sounded like a little kid so I tilted his face up to see him. He was smiling and I smiled back.
"I like you fucking me, too. Shit, I'm gonna miss you, dude."
"How many times do you think we can fuck before you have to go home and pack?" That did make me laugh and I knew things would be okay for us. It turned out to be five times.