It's hard to believe it's been more than a year since the last chapter went up. I apologize to all of my readers for the long delay and my disappearance. My life is back in order and I am finally ready to tackle this story again. I have edited the first eight chapter and I will be posting the “new and improved” versions before posting the remaining chapters of ISWB. The rest are written and nine and ten are already undergoing the tender ministrations of my editors.

This is dedicated to J. Thank you, for everything.

Chapter 3

Auditions for the school musical were announced the week we returned from Christmas break. Brian and I had joined the drama club for fun, but I hadn't intended to try out for any productions; maybe just volunteer as a stage-hand. Brian had other ideas, however. As soon as auditions were announced, he started trying to convince me to audition with him. He begged, cajoled, wheedled, whined, and generally made a total pest of himself until I agreed.

We had three weeks to prepare a monologue and sing a solo, and we began practicing immediately. Brian was a gifted actor, and his monologue blew mine away; we both knew it. Unfortunately, he was absolutely incapable of carrying a tune. I had never in my life encountered someone that tone deaf. I sounded like Pavarotti in comparison to Brian, and believe me, no one is likely to give me a recording contract. We found a very simple song for him to sing, which he practiced ad nauseam until he sounded, well, not good, but less like a dying seal.

The day of the auditions, I was so nervous I felt like I'd swallowed a hundred very active eels that might just escape at any moment. Brian, of course, was totally un-fazed. His audition was right before mine, and I could hear him through the door of the music room. The monologue went off without a hitch, but I cringed when he started singing. He was still pretty off tune, but boy was he ever enthusiastic. I couldn't decide if that was a good thing or not.

He emerged from the room grinning like a maniac and told me it was my turn. I still felt like I might well vomit on someone, but I figured I couldn't possibly sound worse than Brian had. I made it through the audition without a major mishap, then exited the room to find Brian perched next to the door waiting for me. He seemed certain that we'd both be cast. I wasn't nearly as confident, but it didn't really matter to me because I was perfectly happy building sets and playing with the sound-board.

The cast list was posted the following morning and we were both on it. We had both gotten small speaking roles. Thankfully, neither required any solo singing. Rehearsals began that afternoon.

The entire cast arrived in the auditorium after school and arrayed ourselves with the rest of the cast in a big circle on the stage. Ms. McDonald, the drama coach, was parked in the center of the circle. She was everything you imagine when you think about the quintessential high school drama teacher. Her clothing was a wild mix of flowing black fabrics, lace and floral patterns brought together with hideous jewelry that had likely started out as props for one play or another. To say she was eccentric would be the understatement of the century.

She started the rehearsal off with a corny “get to know your cast mates” game then handed out scripts. As we were flipping through the pages of the script, Ms. McDonald gave us the rehearsal schedule for the week. Starting that day and for the next two weeks we had dance rehearsals immediately after school. Brian and I looked at each other in shock. Okay, I know we probably should have realized that being in a musical would entail dancing, but the thought genuinely hadn't occurred to either of us. I wasn't too worried, but Brian looked terrified, and as I thought about it, I could understand why. Fine motor control wasn't exactly his forte. He was a big, burly guy, and now he had to learn how to do an Irish wedding dance without injuring the poor girl he would be partnered with. Based on his performance at the Homecoming dance that was going to be challenging.

Ms. McDonald paired us off and handed control over to the dance teacher. Miss Sawyer was this sour, wisp of a woman with absolutely no patience. She began barking orders out, and we all tried desperately to follow her instructions. This was to be the pattern for the first hour of rehearsals every day that first week. By the end of the week, everyone had the dance down reasonably well. Everyone, that is, except Brian. His dance partner was a sweet girl who was trying her best to help him, but I didn't think her feet could take much more of Brian treading on them. Much to my surprise, I had actually caught on pretty quickly. Fred Astaire I was not, but I was decent, which made Brian feel even worse. Ms. McDonald was rumbling about replacing him if he couldn't get it down, and Brian was getting desperate. Having the dance teacher snapping at him every time he breathed wasn't helping matters any.

As Friday's dance rehearsal was winding down, the dance teacher decided that perhaps public humiliation would help Brian learn the dance. She told everyone but Brian and his partner to sit and watch them until they had it down. She was spewing a steady stream of criticisms at them when Ms. McDonald walked in. She looked fairly perturbed by the dance teacher and suggested that the two of them could meet with Brian after rehearsal to work on the dance instead of continuing this way. Brian looked like he wanted to drop off the planet. I quickly volunteered to work on it with him that weekend until he had it down to get the two of them off his back. I have never seen a more grateful look on anyone's face than the one Brian flashed me. Ms. McDonald seemed thrilled with the notion and quickly decided that she would re-evaluate his dance abilities on Monday after he'd had a chance to work with me.

So, my weekend plans were now set. Fortunately, I had already planned to spend the weekend at Brian's, so I didn't have to do battle with my parents. My mother was still less than thrilled with the notion of me being out of the house any more than I absolutely had to be. Misery loves company, and I was the company. It would have been hard to convince her to let me go on such short notice, but with the plans already made I didn't have to worry about that.

We went to a local diner to get dinner after rehearsal. Brian was still feeling pretty down. I kept trying to reassure him that I could teach him the dance. He didn't look convinced, and honestly, I wasn't either, but I wasn't going to let him see that. After spending half an hour in a futile attempt to cheer him up, I decided it was time to get to work.

We spent the short bus ride to his house in silence, and when we got there, we headed straight for the basement to begin working on the dance. Initially I was trying to do the girl's part, but it had me all confused, and that was confusing Brian even more. I finally gave up on that notion and decided to have him stand behind me and mirror my moves while I pretended to dance with someone. I figured we'd have to procure a dance partner for him eventually, but maybe this way we could limit the danger to the poor girl's feet. I was pretty certain that I could get Mary to help out.

Brian and I repeated the moves of the dance over and over again. He was right up against my back with his arms over mine mimicking my every move. Gradually he was actually moving with me instead of kicking my feet. I was focusing on exactly how his body was moving, trying to make certain that he had every move correct. I was hell bent on making sure that witch of a dance teacher would have absolutely nothing to criticize at the next rehearsal. As he improved, there was less and less to correct. I could feel his body behind me, his muscles flexing as he moved. The hairs on his arm were brushing against my hand and I could feel his breath just above my ear. I suddenly realized just how much I was enjoying this, and realized that Brian would know too if he looked down. The newest little voice in my head was trying to tell me how much it wanted me to turn around and well, do something that men just didn't do with each other. I panicked and stumbled, then felt Brian's arm catch me as I went down. I found myself in a heap on the ground with his arms around me, trying desperately to focus on the pain in the ankle I had just twisted in a futile attempt to make my erection go away. I heard myself gasp and felt Brian's arms tighten around me.

Are you okay? Did I hurt you? Dammit, I thought I finally had that damn thing down!” I could hear the frustration and worry in Brian's voice.

No. It wasn't you. I just twisted my ankle,” I said, hoping that he would let go of me so that I could get myself under control. Of course, it didn't work. Instead he spun me around and tried to get to my ankle to see if it was okay. In the process of spinning me around his arm brushed across my dick and I gasped again.

Man, are you okay? Should I go get my mom? Do you need to go to the hospital?” Brian was rattling off questions in rapid succession. I could hear the panic level rising in his voice, but I couldn't very well tell him why I had just gasped.

Brian, really, I'm okay. Could you just get me some ice?” I was praying that he would just go get me some ice and give me a minute to myself, and I flatly refused to uncurl myself from the ball I had landed in.

Okay, man. I'll be right back. Don't move.” I felt him get up and heard his footsteps going up the stairs. I quickly rearranged myself and untucked my uniform shirt so that the shirt-tails covered my crotch. I tried to wrestle the little voice in my head into another little room with the others. This voice was resisting arrest, but I slammed it into the little room and locked the door behind it. I was trying to tell myself that nothing had happened. That my reaction was just one of those random hard-ons the health teacher had told us about. I was trying to convince myself that I had actually been thinking about dancing with Mary. Denial was my new best friend. I distracted myself by focusing on my ankle, which really was hurting. Moments later, I felt Brian sit down beside me.

Hey. Here's the ice.” He sounded so sorry it made my heart twist. I couldn't let him keep thinking that he was responsible for this.

Thanks." I took the ice from him and put it on my ankle. "Brian, this was really not your fault. I was just getting a little tired and stumbled. You were actually doing great.”

He didn't look like he believed me, but I kept insisting that he had been doing a great job and I just had a klutz moment. He was hovering over me like I might just break into a thousand pieces, and it was driving me crazy. I finally convinced him to throw on a movie and have Mary join us. Brian calmed down when Mary got there. She checked out my ankle and reassured him that it didn't look like it would fall apart anytime soon. We watched some stupid comedy and I fell asleep on the couch with my head on Mary's lap. I woke up two hours later. Mary was getting up to go to bed and her movement had woken me. I suggested that Brian and I do the same. I was relieved to find that my ankle didn't hurt when I stood up, but Brian was still hovering over me.

I grabbed my pj's and headed for the bathroom to change. When I got to Brian's room he had already stripped to his boxers and was sprawled on top of his little twin size bed. I always got a kick out of seeing him on that bed because he just didn't fit. There was always an arm or leg or elbow hanging off somewhere. Brian hadn't heard me come in, so I just stood there for a second studying him. The guy had muscles in places I didn't know you could have muscles. I guess it was more just definition. He gave whole new meaning to the word toned. He looked like one of those drawing from an anatomy text where they emphasize every muscle group to absurd proportions. My eyes drifted down his body and landed on his boxers. They were black with little red chili peppers all over them. From where I was, without my glasses on, it looked like his butt was being swarmed by an army of red ants. I was about to open my mouth and tell him that when I realized what I was doing. I was checking out my half-naked best friend while my girlfriend, his sister, was sleeping upstairs.

I quickly shoved those thoughts aside and turned off the lights. I felt my way in the dark to my sleeping bag on the floor and climbed in. I could hear Brian shifting to climb under his sheets.

Goodnight, Sam. Thanks for today. I'm sorry about your ankle,” Brian said quietly.

No problem, man. Seriously, my ankle wasn't your fault. It'll be fine tomorrow. You'll have that dance down by Monday, and that old witch won't have anything to complain about. Get some sleep. We'll tackle the 'dance from hell' again in the morning.”

Brian's breathing slowed and turned into soft snores. I couldn't sleep. My brain kept trying to go places I wasn't about to let it take me. I'd slept on this floor, in this sleeping bag, with Brian in the bed above me wearing nothing but his boxers dozens of times, so why, now, was it such a problem? I kept trying to force my thoughts to Mary, my drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend one floor above me, but my brain kept wandering back to Brian. I finally fell asleep and had a disturbing dream where Mary kept turning into Brian every time I tried to kiss her. I woke up in the morning more exhausted than I'd been when I'd gone to sleep.

That day, I was entirely uncomfortable being alone with Brian. I'd promised him that I would help him with the dance, and I wasn't going to back out on that promise, but I wasn't going to be dancing with him. I talked Mary into helping us during breakfast that morning. It took a few minutes for me to teach her the dance, then I paired her off with Brian and critiqued from afar.

By lunchtime, Brian finally had the dance down and the three of us headed out for lunch before Mary took me home. I had finally managed to push the previous day's events from my mind and relax. We had a great time at lunch just talking and goofing around. Mary drove to my house and I kissed her when I got out. The world felt normal again, or at least that was what I was telling myself. I ran inside and started my chores.