Time seemed to fly after Homecoming. Mary and I were officially dating - something that totally blew my mind. I spent all of my time with Mary, Brian, or both of them together. Mary talked me into joining the yearbook staff with her. Brian conned me into joining the newspaper staff and drama club with him, and somehow the two of them together had convinced me to join the debate club with both of them. When combined with Jazz band, chamber orchestra, cross country, and soccer that I'd joined on my own, I was beginning to feel like a perpetual motion machine. I never knew whether I was coming or going, but I was having a blast. Brian had become the closest thing to a best friend I'd ever had, and I was crazy about Mary. By the time the Christmas holidays were looming I was finally beginning to feel comfortable in both relationships, though part of me still didn't quite believe that things could really be going this well.
The week before school was to let out for the Christmas break Brian caught up with me in the hall before class. “Hey. There's a party this Saturday at Mike's house. His parents are out of town, and he's driving across the border to get a keg. Can you come?”
I felt my heart sink. I knew he partied, but so far he hadn't asked me along. This was going to be it, I thought. He'd ditch me now for sure, but I just couldn't do that stuff. Getting drunk meant getting out of control, and there was no way in hell I was going to do that. The fastest way I could think of to lose every new friend I'd made was to end up drunk and blubbering like a baby in a corner. “I'm sorry, Brian. I can't. I...”
“Look Sam, before you say no,” he interrupted, “I know you don't party, and that's actually why I'm asking you to go. You know I'm diabetic, and alcohol can really screw with my blood sugar. Mary usually goes to parties with me and makes sure that I don't get into trouble, but she can't make it this time, and I don't want to miss this party. The whole team is gonna be there. I know I won't say no when they offer me a drink and I just don't want to end up dead. I don't trust anyone else to keep an eye on me. They'd probably just get drunk themselves and forget about me. It's not like you wouldn't have fun. Hell, you'll end up having dirt on everyone there by the end of it. I'll show you exactly what to watch for and what to do. Please just think about it?” Everything he said had come out in a rush. Brian was pleading with me, and I could tell this was really important to him.
I was stunned. “Brian, are you sure you trust me with this. I mean, you know I'll watch your back, but are you sure about having me do this?”
“Sam,” he said, “you are the most responsible person I know. Damn, you make half the teachers look irresponsible. You're never late, never miss an assignment, never fail to do what you say. You're as reliable as sunrise.” Great, I thought. I sound about as exciting as ball of mud.
“Well, you've just demonstrated that I'm neurotic and boring, but that doesn't mean you should trust me with your life,” I replied. I couldn't believe he was actually talking about trusting me with his life.
“That's just it though--that's precisely why I trust you. You take everything so seriously. You wouldn't blow this off. All the other guys would.”
“Gee thanks, I think,” I said. “Have you considered that maybe you shouldn't party quite so hard? Then this wouldn't be an issue, you know.”
Brian grinned at me. “Yeah, but what fun would that be?” Then he got serious again. “Just think about it, for me?” He had this pleading look on his face. How his parents ever told him no I'd never figure out. The guy could have sold socks to a snake.
“You're going whether I go or not, aren't you,” I said.
I took a deep breath and made my decision. “I guess I'd better agree then, 'cause I don't plan on losing my best friend to his own stupidity.”
Brian looked absolutely elated. His grin was infectious and I couldn't help smiling back at him. “I'll show you what to do and what to look out for. I should probably show you anyway since we're together so much.” Then he turned to go to class. I shook my head and started off in the other direction when I heard him call my name. When I turned around he was right behind me.
“Sam! Thanks.” He nearly knocked me off my feet with a hug, then ran off. My breath caught in my chest. I felt like the floor had just dropped out from under me as I watched his broad shoulders recede down the hall. A little voice in my head was trying to tell me how nice that was and how nice his shoulders looked. I locked the little voice alone in a room in the back of my mind and assiduously ignored it. Over time that little voice would get louder and acquire plenty of company, but for now it was muffled and alone.
* * * * * * * *
Brian wasn't joking when he said he'd show me everything I needed to know to keep him safe. He and Mary showed me how to test his blood sugar, how to administer his insulin, and what to do if his blood sugar got too low or too high. He even made me give him an insulin shot so that I could get a feel for it. I stared at his thigh so long that I had every hair memorized while I tried to muster the nerve to stab him with the needle.
The night of the party Mike picked both of us up from Brian's house because Brian and I were suppose to help him set things up for the party. When the three of us pulled up to the house my jaw dropped. I knew that Mike's parents were well off, but I had no idea how well off. The place was huge and incredibly ritzy: marble floors, vaulted ceilings and artwork everywhere. I was having a hard time picturing a herd of drunken football players here. We hauled the kegs in from Mike's car and set one up in the basement next to the pool table, and one on the main floor next to the pool. This didn't seem like a bright idea to me. I had visions of someone drowning, but I didn't want to look like a total putz, so I didn't say anything.
When the party started I sort of glued myself to Brian's side. Even though I was ostensibly friends with all these guys, I still didn't feel totally comfortable with them en masse. Brian was, as usual, the life of the party. He drank and cracked jokes with everyone. As people got more drunk, their antics got considerably wilder. At one point I was simultaneously trying to convince Brian and Mike that running naked into the front yard to write their names in piss in the snow would probably offend the neighbors and get the cops called on us, while simultaneously trying to convince several others that walking 200 miles to get a fresh keg in the snow was also not a good idea. I succeeded in convincing Brian and Mike to write their names in the back yard, but wasn't as successful with the others. They left and returned hours later with Twinkies. Apparently they got cold by the time they hit the convenience store a mile down the road and decided that everyone needed a case of Twinkies more than they needed more beer. Gotta love drunken logic.
Somewhere around three in the morning Brian decided to call it a night. We went to a spare bedroom to go to sleep. After I poured a bunch of water and aspirin down his throat, I helped him strip to his boxers. He was too drunk to work the buttons let alone stand up. Once I'd gotten him undressed and on the bed, I rolled him on his side and started my vigil. I sat next to him and watched him sleep, all the while telling myself that I was just making sure he was alright.
He was breathing so softly that I almost couldn't hear him, so I put my hand on his chest. I found myself studying him. I could feel his chest muscles moving as he breathed. He had a light dusting of curly blonde hairs on his long legs. I couldn't help laughing at his smiley face boxers and found my eyes drawn to the trail of blond hair on his stomach that led into them. I closed my eyes and forced myself to stop looking at him. My dick was stirring and I began to panic. I was not going to betray Brian like that. The little voice I'd locked away was joined by a second one that was admiring my best friend's body and telling me how much it would like it if my hand were to move lower down his body. I resolutely shoved the new voice away with the first one and did my best to distract myself. I recited multiplication tables, visualized gross things, anything to get myself back under control. I was so busy fighting with myself and worrying about Brian, that I hardly noticed the hours passing. He cracked his eyes open just after 9 am.
“Hey. Didn't you get any sleep?” He croaked at me and grimaced as he moved his head. I realized that my hand was still on his chest and nearly jumped across the room.
“I, uh, j-just wanted to make sure you were still breathing. I'm s-sorry,” I managed to stammer out.
Brian grabbed my hand and stopped me before I got to the door. “Hey, deep breaths. I think you need some sleep man. You okay?” Brian was obviously getting worried about my odd behavior.
“Yeah, just tired.” I couldn't meet his eyes.
“I really worried you didn't I?” I could hear the concern in Brian's voice. I took a deep breath and managed to tear my eyes off the floor to look at him.
“Well, yeah, kinda.”
“I'm sorry Sam.” Brian was staring at me intently. There was concern and something else I couldn't quite identify playing across his face. I just wanted this conversation to end and for Brian to be back in his clothes so that I could forget that this entire thing had ever happened.
“It's no biggie. I'm just neurotic, you know that.” I was trying to brush the entire thing off as no big deal. Based on the look he was giving me, Brian wasn't buying it. He looked me in the eyes for a moment, like he was reading something there that I didn't want to know. Just as I was starting to panic, he looked away.
“Thanks man," he said.
Brian looked at me again and held my gaze. His face was absolutely serious. “You know you're my best friend, right?”
I gulped. “You too, Brian,” I whispered back. Why did I feel like he was searching through my brain?
“That'll never change, Sam. I'll always have your back.” I couldn't say anything. Brian stared at me a while longer, then broke his gaze to look for his clothes. “Where'd my stuff go?”
I handed him the neatly folded pile. The tension finally broke as he chuckled at me and shook his head. “I can't believe you folded these.”
“Yeah, well, you were wrinkled enough before you passed out. I didn't think you needed to look even more like a bum.” He smacked me on the arm and grinned as he got dressed.