By SF Writer
Copyright 2004 Stormnation, All rights reserved.
I lay awake staring at the ceiling trying to work out the incredible day that had just been. Lucas and I had come out to the school and the town basically. Yet things hadnt become the harem of hell I was expecting and dreading. Im still not sure whether or not Im happy about it happening because its so unchangeable and irreversible. I know Lucas and I are labeled now and thats the one thing I wanted to avoid the most. I just hate being pigeonholed. Im not gay. Im not straight. Im just me.
But as far as everyone is concerned now I may as well be. Still, the main thing is that Lucas and I are together and that I am finally comfortable I think. Comfortable with how things are between us. Im not torn or conflicted anymore. If anything, Im content. Im not sure what kind of bearing this will have on my future here in Merlow but I hope that Ill be able to still have this town be my home for the rest of my life just as it has been for my life that has passed so far. Im not sure whether Lucas plans to spend the rest of his life here in Merlow but I dont think I could ever move away from here forever. This place is in my blood. Its in my soul. I never want that to change. Merlow is home.
Tonight Ive had quite a few phone calls from people ringing to ask me if its true. And so many times I had to repeat the same confirmation. To paraphrase a superstar, its true, its damn true. Lucas and I are together.
It feels good to be able to say that. It really does. Lucas and I are together. It just rolls off my tongue now. I dont have to check myself anymore. School was always the worst for me the last time Lucas and I were together which seems like so long ago actually. He and I still have issues to sort out ourselves but I think the whole being open thing is what is going to help save us this time and make things less frustrating. School used to be torture for us. Both Lucas and I would be approached to go out on dates and people would wonder why we werent interested. Mind you that didnt stop Lucas changing his mind on going out with someone else after we broke up. But still, past is past. But it was terrible having to hide our feelings and it did have a detrimental effect on relations between us. But hopefully things are on track for Lucas and I this time. I really do hope so.
My thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock at my door. It startled me for some reason as whoever was knocking on the other side of the door didnt speak. I sat up in bed and I suppose to be quite blunt, in the name of being vain, I quickly made sure my hair was tidy just to make sure I looked good.
"Uhhh, who is it?" I asked inquisitively.
The handle turned and then the door began creeping open slowly. My lights were off and so were the hallway lights so I didnt make out the face straight away. When I did my eyes went wide with surprise and nervousness. I hadnt expected this. Especially not at this time.
"Hi, Sarah." I said still looking at her in surprise.
"Uhh can I come in?"
"Please." I said standing up and motioning for her to sit on my desk chair.
"Hi." She said again with a half hearted smile as she sat down.
I still remained standing and wasnt quite sure what to make of her being here. Sarah and I still werent officially back on speaking terms the last I checked so she was the last person I expected to see here. I was quite anxious inside as she sat looking at me. The look on her face was so scared and filled with trepidation.
"Sarah? What are you doing here? Is everything ok?" I asked anxiously.
"Storm whats going on between us? How long are you going to keep doing this to me?"
"Im sorry, Sarah." I said hanging my head down in shame.
We stood in silence for a long while. Contemplating. Trying to surmise what it is we actually meant to each other now. Whether we could actually salvage the once seemingly invincible bond between us. Her face seemed open to me, as if she were just waiting for me to say the right thing or giving me permission to see all her inner thoughts and feelings.
"I need you, Storm." She said finally, breaking the silence.
"Sarah whats wrong?" I asked again, even more anxiously this time.
"I think you already know dont you?" She asked in more of a rhetorical manner than a direct one.
My mind suddenly inundated itself with now seemingly obvious clues and giveaways. Feelings and instincts. Observations and impressions. For so long now the answers had been there in front of me. I just never wanted to entertain the notion that my fears would prove true.
"Youre sick arent you?" I said staring with all my might into her eyes, waiting for her to tell me I was wrong.
My jaw suddenly went slack. My eyes began to water and I began to shake ever so slightly. I turned my head away from her and awkwardly fumbled for something to do. I couldnt bring myself to say anything. I was dumbfounded. I couldnt handle hearing anymore. I knew it wasnt going to be any better than what Id heard already. I went to my dresser and fumbled for a shirt to put on, trying to stifle my swelling emotions.
I soon felt Sarahs hand on my shoulder and could hear her broken voice. She knew I was hurting and I knew she was hurting. Her hands were cold and wet against my skin and I knew shed been probably out walking or thinking with the rain and cold battering her.
"Storm I need you."
I turned around slowly and once again met her eyes. She was right. She needed me. She needed somebody. Her eyes were full of sadness and one thing that I can rarely recall seeing in Sarahs eyes before. Fear. She was afraid. She was scared. The usually strong Sarah was here a frightened, scared soul. There were no walls up. No attempts to hide the truth or feign assurance. Sarah was afraid.
My heart broke for her as I realized how much pain she was in and I held her face in my hands. I placed a soft kiss upon her lips and held my face against hers. I struggled to hold my tears back but Sarah was not so intent on trying to be strong. She broke down in my arms and began crying a broken wail of sobs that shook me to my very soul. My poor Sarah was so afraid and I suddenly had the impression that this was the first time shed been able to express those fears openly and not have to put on a brave face.
I felt her tears against my cheek as I rocked her gently and held her safely in my arms. For some reason I began singing softly in her ear a song that her and I used to share.
"If youre lost you can look and you will find me. Time after time.
If you fall, I will catch you, Ill be waiting. Time after time.
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting. Time after time.
Time after time "
I hummed softly in her ear as I rocked her and her tears began to subside. I kissed her cheek as my own tears were flowing silently. My voice was croaky but I did my best to soothe her. After a while of us doing what had turned into a dance of support, Sarah had fallen silent except for the soft caress of her breath against my skin.
"Ill always be here for you, Sarah. Even when Im being a jerk."
"Ive needed this for so long, Storm." Sarah said leaving her head resting on my shoulder as we continued our gentle dance in the moonlight. "I have to be strong for Mike or else he starts fretting and worrying so much. Lucas has been there for me but you know youre my best friend, Storm. Its always been that way between us. Id do anything for you. Youre the only one I could be afraid in front of. The only I knew could be strong for me. The only one I didnt have to be strong for. I need you, Storm."
"And youll always have me."
"So many years I depended on you and never realized just how much I actually did depend on you. Youve always been my rock. My steadfast, Daniel."
"No ones called me that in a long time."
"You forget, I was your girlfriend before the age of Storm. Youll always be Daniel to me. As well as Storm."
"What are we fighting here, Sarah? Give me an idea of what were up against." I asked with a deep breath, anxious and anticipating.
Sarah stopped us moving together and raised her head so our eyes were locked again. She still was hesitant to say anything but knew she couldnt deny me now. She gulped and summoned up her courage to speak. I could feel the nervousness swelling up within her but she finally spoke and said the words that would rock my world for as long as I lived.
"I often thought but never dared dream I was right. How bad is it? I get the feeling its worse than just those two words."
"I had a smear test two years ago and Ive known for a little over a year. I had problems but I thought I was fine there for a while and so I never told you back then but now theres a chance I wont be around for as long as Id like to be, Storm."
"Dont say that." I said dejectedly.
"I have to be honest with you, Storm. I knew the worse things got that youd find out one way or another. I knew that now I had no choice but to tell you. And I wanted to tell you now. I just want you to be prepared. But Im thinking optimistically and hoping for the best."
"Thats the real reason you and Mike told us at Marcels party that you were getting married sooner rather than later, isnt it?"
"Are you going to tell everyone?"
"Ive told Marcel but not Dade. Do you want to talk to Dade or do you want me to talk to him?"
"Whatever you feel comfortable with. Does my Mom know? You know how much she loves you."
"Shes been helping me with my treatments. But you know she couldnt tell you, Storm. Im her patient."
"I know, I know. Im not angry. I was just wondering. Thank you for telling me, Sarah. I really, really want to be there for you on this now that I know. Well beat this. Together. Well beat this."
"Thank you, Storm. Thank you." Sarah said with a warm smile. "I needed this. I feel so much better now. You give me strength. You know that, dont you?"
"I know. I give what I get. I just I want you to be ok. I know you need me but everyone else loves you just as much BUT not as much." I said with a wicked grin. "Except for Mike of course. But I think the pack should get together. You wont get any more support than you can get from all six of us together."
"Lets talk about it tomorrow. Im actually pretty tired. But I couldnt sleep without seeing you."
"Sarah can you stay here with me tonight? I just I wanna hold you. I know you belong to Mike but I just want to hold you one more time. Thats all. Please?"
"I was going to anyway."
Sarah kicked off her socks and shoes and slid her jumper off over her head. I gathered all her wet clothes and threw them into my hamper. I pulled out a pair of clean clothes that Sarah had left over for times like this. I turned around as she stripped, even though Ive seen all of it before.
When shed finished, she slipped under the covers into my bed and waited for me to join her. Id be a liar if I didnt say I wasnt excited at the prospect of having Sarah in my bed. Her and I never went all the way and I often wondered what it would be like but I know it will never happen.
I slipped in under the covers and wrapped my arms around her. We lay my chest to her back and nuzzled into her neck. I needed this as much as she did. If anything this was more to comfort me than to comfort her. I needed to feel her next to me to know she was ok.
Our fingers interlaced and as I held her in my arms, the part of me that used to love Sarah romantically, the part that used to fawn over her and worship her began to rear its dormant head. I pushed it away, knowing that my emotions were on overload after being reunited with Sarah in the worst of ways. My feelings for her were running at extremes right now and thats why the old Daniel was coming out. The one that loved Sarah.
I kissed her back and snuggled into her as she turned her face we did share the briefest kiss. It was made in the vise of a goodnight kiss but ended up as something it probably shouldnt be. Sarah was no doubt feeling as conflicted as I did. We broke the kiss before tongues were involved and we really crossed the line but continued to hold each other.
"We have too much history to pretend that didnt mean anything, Storm. And I know if I had of told you this yesterday before you came out with Lucas and I got back with Mike then..."
"You got back with Mike?"
"I havent spoken to him. Hes spending the night at Lucas. Theyre re-bonding." I said with a small laugh.
"How ironic. I wonder if theyve ever kissed before."
"Now theres a thought." I said with a mischievous grin.
"But anyway. You and I would be back together, Storm if this had of happened a day earlier and I think we both know it."
"Youve always been the girl for me, Sarah. I just guess some of my old feelings are flooding back. The thought of losing you has my emotions fucked up tonight. I think were both thinking thoughts we wouldnt usually."
"Youre right. It would be dangerous to entertain them for too much longer."
"Im tempted. I really am. If that makes me bad then it makes me bad. I wish I could be Daniel and Storm all at the same time. I forget who Daniel was sometimes."
"Im glad hes not around as much. It would make it harder for me to not need him if he were still around."
"Well talk more in the morning, Sarah. Were just on a bit of an overload right now. Our feelings are messed up."
"I know they are, Storm. I know." Sarah said with a smile before she turned away and dropped her head on the pillow again.
"I love you, Sarah."
"I love you too."
"Goodnight, Sarah." I said sighing as we rested into each other and closed our eyes.
* * * * * * *
Morning came a little too soon. My arms were still wrapped around Sarah and the dawn was just barely creeping through the gray clouds. My fingers danced across her bare stomach and I kissed her shoulder gently. Her breathing was slight and soft; she did not stir from her sleep. I laid there watching her sleep for countless moments. I imagined a different world. A safer one. A world where Sarah and I would have ended up together instead of Lucas and I. A world where I was normal. Sarah would have stayed my high school sweetheart. We would have gone to college together. Let our hormones get the better of us during college and probably have gotten Sarah pregnant. We would have married and then been together for sixteen years, had three children and then divorced just like my parents. A perfectly normal life. In a normal world.
Too bad this isnt normal. This is just real. Sarah and I arent together nor do I think we ever will be. I have a feeling that this may be the closest I ever get to being with a girl. Unless for some reason Lucas decides he wants a threesome some day. Sarah is really the only girl that I think could meet all my expectations. But this is as close as well ever be.
As I held her I tried not to let dark thoughts of losing Sarah pervade my mind. It just wasnt an option. And I was going to make sure that she had as much support as she needed. Id stand by her until the last candle blew out if I had to. But it wouldnt come to that. I dont remember a life without Sarah around in one form or another, even through our disagreements. I dont want to remember a life without Sarah anytime soon either.
She looks so beautiful now. I dont want to wake her so I carefully pull my arms from around her and place a small kiss on the side of her cheek before I slip from the bed. I pulled my tearaways on and slipped a pair of shoes on before I quietly exited the room. I gently pop my head through Dades door to see if hes awake and am surprised to see hes not in bed. His bed is neatly made and his bags gone. I figure he must have headed out extra early to train or something. It seems a little strange though. I wanted to talk to him and just make sure everything was ok. We havent had much chance to speak lately.
I spotted a photograph lying on the drawer next to his bed. Now, Im not one to go through other peoples gear but it was just on top of the drawer so I figured it was no big deal. I picked the photo up and half frowned at what it was. A photo of Marcel and Dade.
I may seem like a hypocrite but I really dont agree with that relationship. I know Im less than a year older than Dade but hes still my little brother. And Marcels my best friend. Its weird. Almost disturbing to me. But I say nothing because its not my place and because I respect both of them. But I still dont like it.
Even more so for the way that I can see Dade still hurting from all of this. He hides it all but you know its there all the time. Rejection, hurt, anger. Im not sure if its all tied to Marcel but I know at least some of it is. And its because of that I still harbor slight resentment towards Marcel. But nothing that I would let interfere in our friendship.
I walked back into my room about to grab my gear to go downstairs and knock the bag around for a bit before I had a shower. It was then that I heard a familiar rattle of leaves and branches outside followed by a soft tapping at the window. A smile passed across my lips as I turned around to see Lucas face beaming back at me. I couldnt help the stupid grin stuck on my face. The guy of my dreams still loved me enough to make a dork of himself climbing up to my window. I was still lucky enough to have him. And I think this time Id be mature enough to realize what I had and not screw it up.
I rushed to the window trying not to rock the bed too much as I hopped onto it and leaned over Sarah to reach the window. I pulled the window up and impatiently pulled Lucas lips to my own. A warm laugh passing between us as we kissed rather raucously. I pulled him roughly through the window and began mauling his neck as we rolled off the bed and landed with a thud on the floor. We both laughed and carried on our mischievous rampage. I tried to cover both our mouths from laughing to try not to wake Sarah but we were both fairly giddy with happiness I suppose that we couldnt help ourselves.
"What are you doing here?" I asked finally as I had Lucas pinned to the floor.
"Old habits die hard, I guess." He smiled back, stealing a quick kiss before he lay back. "Whats Sarah doing here? Did you two make up?"
"Yeah. Make up sex is always good. It was great."
"Gee, a bit of make up sex would go a long way right now. Pity were not alone." Lucas said teasing me with his mischievous smile. "Maybe we could move this to another room. Its been so long."
"Soon. I promise." I said placing small kisses along Lucas neck, inhaling his long lost scent before I stood up suddenly and yanked him to his feet. "But not now."
"Soon?" He asked frowning as he gave me his puppy dog look and wrapped his arms around my waist, resting them under my shirt so his fingers lay on the small of my back.
Lucas knew this was a weak zone for me. And he was using that knowledge to try and get the better of me. I admit that carnal thoughts pervaded my mind but it had been so long and did kind of want it to be special. It seemed like so long since Lucas and I had been together. I wanted everything to be perfect this time.
"Soon. I promise."
"Soon." Lucas whispered as he brushed his lips against mine and sucked gently on my bottom lip.
"Im sorry, Storm. I just cant seem to control myself this morning. I want you so bad. Having you right here next to me. Feeling you. Smelling you. Knowing this is real. I want it. I want you."
"What about Sarah?"
"Oh dont stop on my account."
Lucas and I both blushed red as we turned to see Sarah resting on her elbow as she stared at us. She winked and smiled at us and Lucas removed his hands from around my waist. He knew our time would have to come later.
"Oh there you are. I was wondering where you got to, Lucas." Mike said as he waltzed in. "You just disappeared on me. Babe! What are you doing here?"
"Having sex with Storm before Lucas stole him from me. How bout you, honey?" Sarah asked as Mike leaned down to place a kiss on her forehead and lips.
"Lucas and I just came back to pick up some of my gear before we go to our game. Did "
"Yeah, I did. Everythings fine."
"Good." Mike said with a deep sigh of relief. "Im glad its all out in the open. So is everybody all making nice with each other now?"
"Yeah, Mike." I said smiling slightly. "Everythings fine."
"Ok well, are you guys coming to watch the game?"
"Sarah?" I asked waiting for her answer.
"Sure. Storm and I will come down to watch the game. You guys carry on. Well see you when we get there."
"See you then. See ya, Honey." Mike said quickly kissing Sarah bye before he rushed out.
"Bye, Babe." Lucas said kissing me bye before he followed after Mike.
I gently pushed the door shut and leaned back against it as I stared back at Sarah. She in turn sat in bed staring straight back at me. Neither of us budged for a while. We just stared at each other. Almost challenging the other to make the first move. To speak the first words. In the end it was Sarah who spoke first. She did so very reluctantly and in a manner uncharacteristic of Sarah; nervously.
"So what happens now?"
"Dude! I just " Lucas began as he burst through the door.
He sensed something immediately. The way Sarah and I both seemed to avert our eyes at first. Then the defiance in Sarah came back and she fixed her eye contact on Lucas. Lucas looked at me and then back at her. Repeating the process several more times before his eyes downcast to the ground.
"Sorry for interrupting." Lucas said softly as if still absorbing what he believed was happening. "Will I see you after the game?"
There was a silent plead in his voice. Rather than confront whatever he believed was happening, he seemed to accept it and instead be really asking me if things had changed between he and I. I smiled back at him reassuringly and nodded.
"You sure will."
It was all I needed to say. He beamed back at me with his huge smile and then turned to Sarah and his smile faded. His face seemed somber and almost sad as he looked at her. There was no hint of anger. More of concern. Then he left the room as quickly as he walked in.
"Well that felt weird." Sarah said brushing her hair back into a ponytail. "What happens now, Storm?"
"Nothing. And nothing changes. I still feel the same way about you today that I did yesterday." I kissed her cheek tenderly and held my hand beneath her chin, raising her eyes to meet mine. "I loved you yesterday. I love you today. Nothings changed. You just gave me a scare thats all. Bit of an emotional overload."
"Im sorry. Im sorry for last night. I know nothing happened but the thought was there and sometimes thats just as bad. Am I a bad person for wondering what life would have been like if you and I were still together?"
"It makes you a real person. Everyone thinks about the paths not taken from time to time. Or wonders what it would be like to be driving a different car to the one they have. What separates us is whether we act on those thoughts. I was and I still am still stunned by what you told me last night. It made me want to be close to you. It made my feelings intense. You and I have a history. Nothing can change that. Were best friends. We have been all our lives. We care about each other."
"Deeply." Sarah said feigning a smile at me as tears ran down her face silently. "You have no idea how conflicted I am right now. I know I shouldnt say that. I feel terrible. This will all pass I know. But for right now it all kind of hurts. I feel so bad."
"Dont, Sarah. Ok? Dont." I said wrapping my arms around her and kissing the top of her head. "Nothing happened and nothing is ever going to happen. But we cant pretend that we dont love each other and last night that was multiplied with the thought of losing each other. I know how you feel about me. And you know how I feel about you. But its not meant to be in this lifetime. But dont you dare beat yourself up about this. We cant pretend that there was never anything between us. We cant. We just accept it and move on."
"Mike and I just got back together and hes been great but Im not sure if we can get back what we had. I dont know if I was away from him too long or what. Im usually in so much control of my life but lately my head is just a mess. I dont know if Im on borrowed time and if this is my last chance to be happy. I cant afford to make mistakes anymore, Storm."
"And is Mike a mistake?"
"Noooo." Sarah said looking at me with a hurt look of conviction on her face. "Never. Never a mistake."
And there it was. That look in Sarahs eye. The glint. The little glint of happiness that resides in her eyes when shes content with the world. Mike gives her that. I smiled back at her and wrapped her up in a great big hug. She cried in relief and squeezed her arms around me as she sighed a deep sigh.
"Oh, Storm. Youre so wonderful. Do you know that?"
"Of course I do." I said with a wink as I hopped off the bed.
"Thank you for helping me find myself again. Thats what I needed most lately. I just feel lost. Scared. Afraid. Uncertain."
"Dont be." I said as a tear slipped from my own eyes. "Dont ever be. You have every right to be scared but I swear to you, Sarah. We will get through this. Dont you dare ever give in. Youre a fighter. I know that. Be strong in yourself and then anytime when you dont feel you can be then you use our strength. Nothing can stop us when we stand together. Were a pack. Please, Sarah. Dont be afraid."
I knew that exactly what I was saying was wrong. Sarah had every right to be afraid. I couldnt tell her not to be. I just didnt want her to be afraid because that would make me afraid. I needed her to be strong so I could be strong. My motives were entirely selfish and wrong and I knew it.
"Ill be strong, Storm. Just dont ever leave me. I need you."
"I wont." I said with relief.
I took Sarahs hand and then picked her up over the threshold. I held her like the beautiful queen she was with a big smile on my face. The sun shone through the window and reflected off the glow in her cheeks. She seemed genuinely happy. At that one moment everything was perfect. Nothing could ever take it away from me. The memory of it would be burned into my mind, locked until the day I die.
"And now my beautiful Queen, it is time to serve you breakfast."
* * * * * * *
"Dade! Wait up!" Josh yelled as he ran up beside Dade just as he was approaching the school gates.
The school was almost desolate, today being a Saturday. The only people around were some administration and sports teams. Dade greeted his friend with a warm smile as Josh patted him on the back and they fell into step beside each other.
"Hows it going, Dade? It feels like we havent had much of a chance to catch up lately."
"I was half expecting you to stand me up again today." Dade laughed. "But I think Claire still comes second to football for you. Just like everything else aye?"
"Well, Im still disappointed that Im not VC but I have a feeling things are going to go my way this year. How about you? Are you nervous? Your first game at senior level."
"I guess I am " Dade said nervously. "But I dont really have a need to be worried. Theres a reason Im in this team. Im great."
"Yeah." Josh smiled. "Dont let it get to your head."
"Fat chance. Im glad we have a home game though. Makes for an easier first outing."
"Yeah but you shouldnt be worried, youre an old hand at team sports or any sport. Youve represented the school in almost every team sport except synchronized swimming. Do you ever think theres one of them that youd like to do really well at more than the others? You gave up being Captain of the hockey team this year to play for us. And that was one of your best sports."
"Hmm probably basketball but Im not tall enough. Hockey maybe. Soccer no. Football I dont think so. Karate, definitely. If just to beat my own personal goals."
"Well when you do decide, you know Ill be behind you a hundred percent." Josh said putting his hand on Dades shoulder. "So what do you have planned for today after the game?"
"Well, I dunno. Are we still on for the movies tonight?"
"Oh man." Josh said smacking his forehead. "Dade, Im sorry. I totally "
"Dont worry." Dade said as they entered the changing rooms where most of the team were gathered and getting ready for some pre-game drills. "I understand. You and Claire already made plans."
"Im really sorry, Dade. I feel terrible. Im just new at this and its "
"No big deal. Maybe we can just grab some lunch after the game instead. Catch up."
Dade feigned a smile as a red faced Josh dropped his bag and began stripping down. They were immediately approached by other players who began making idle chit chat. Dade not so obviously moved to another bench to change beside. That way he could feel offended out of range of his ever more so former best friend. Dade shrugged it off and instead tried to focus himself on his upcoming debut. He kicked off his socks and shoes before he pulled his shirt off and threw it into his locker. He bent over to pull his tracks down when he jumped from feeling someones cold hand pat him on his lower back. He turned in surprise to see it was Marty Lee.
"Its just me." Marty Lee smiled. "Didnt mean to startle you."
"You didnt. Just your hands are cold, thats all."
"Sorry about that. Ive been outside all morning and its been a bit chilly. I just wanted to see how you were doing. Nervous?"
"Why does everyone think that?"
"Because you seem to be nervous about something. Is everything ok?"
"Sure, Marty Lee. Truth is, I just dont need any trouble after yesterday. I dont think Ill get any but you never know with these things."
"Hmm these things?"
"I just dont need the grief. Its all good and well for Storm to stand up and be proud or whatever the fuck hes doing but it would be nice if he showed a little consideration to how his actions will affect other people. I am his little brother after all. Its selfish of me to think this way but Im just getting a bit sick of not being noticed or thought of." Dade said checking himself on the rising amount of hostility in his voice. "Im sorry. I have issues. Just forget anything Ive said."
"So where is your brother right now then? He coming to watch you?"
"Yeah Im sure hes coming out to watch me." Dade said snickering. "Ha..ha. As soon as hes finished sucking face with his boyfriend again. Probably on television this time."
"Just try to relax." Marty Lee said patting Dade on the shoulder.
Dade flashed his trademark eyebrow at Marty Lee as without Marty Lee even noticing himself, his eyes had inadvertently wandered down to Dades abs for a split second at exactly the same moment as Marty Lees index finger bent and stroked Dades shoulder muscle. This all happened so quickly before Marty Lees eyes were fixed on an incoming Lucas Sheridan. Dade tried to shake the feeling he felt come from Marty Lee just then but could not do so entirely. Oh please no. Dade thought to himself. I dont think he even realizes it.
Dade snatched himself away roughly in the guise of pulling his football gear on. Marty Lee seemed not to have noticed and smiled reassuringly at Dade before he carried on changing himself. Dade shook his head as bad seemed to go to worse when Lucas soon approached him with a sheepish smile on his face.
"Hey, Dude. How are you doing?"
"Just fine, Lucas. How are things going with you and Storm?"
"Ahhh Im happy." Lucas said unable to hide the big grin on his face. "No ones reacted too badly yet. Touch wood but I think we might be fine."
"How bout you, Dude? Everything going ok? You feel ready? Nervous?"
"No. I am not nervous." Dade said letting out a small inconspicuous laugh. "I dont know why everyone thinks I would be. I mean, Im Dade. The Dadester. Doesnt anyone know how cool I am?"
"Just yourself." Lucas said cheekily. "I wanted to make sure we talked before we went out there. Youve been training really well, Dade and I wanted to make sure you were feeling ok and you felt comfortable with everything. This is your first official game and I know youll be trying to impress but just keep with the basics. Dont force something that isnt there. Dont be afraid to talk up the line on the field but remember that Mike and I are out on that field too and well be able to help you as well as lead every play. Ill be leading defensive. Josh will be helping with offensive but Mike has final say over everything, ok?"
"I know youve got a big voice and a big heart, Dade. Youre a born leader on the field and in team games. We all know that. But try to observe as much as you can the next few months. Your time will come I have no doubt. Im talking too much but I just want to make sure youre ready. Your natural abilities will shine. You have speed. You have dexterity. Good on field coordination. You have good bursts of power. Youre just as stubborn and determined as your brother and youre a winner. Go out there and have a great game, ok?"
"Ok." Dade smiled. "Thanks for the pep talk, VC man."
"One other thing. Its tradition that debutants have to spend the week after their first game as a slave to the M.V.P. of that game."
"Yes, Lucas. I know how it works."
"But I talked to the guys and they all agree that you giving up your hockey team to play for us is sacrifice enough so you dont have to do it. We dont want you getting put off on your first week, we wanted you on this team more than you wanted to be here."
"Na uh. Na uh. Na uh." Mike said walking past and prodding Dade in the chest. "No brother of mine is getting off easy. I did it and I expect him to do it. Right, Dade?"
"Right, Mike. I dont want special treatment. I know how it all works. Im ready."
"See, Lucas? Dade doesnt need special treatment. Hes one of us." Mike said shaking his head as he carried on to talk to another group.
"Well, if you have any problems just come and talk to me. Youll like it here, Dade. Im glad youre with us."
"Sure, Lucas." Dade said nodding before Lucas left with an awkward glance.
Dade caught Marty Lees eyes narrowing after Lucas. He knew the checkered history between the two though so chose not to think much of it. Instead he chose to concentrate on the game ahead. Dade wondered if his self confidence in all things sport bordered on arrogance but he chose not to dwell on it. He expected great things from himself but only in things he knew he was good at. He never thought himself a scholar or academic, that went to his brother no matter how he tried to play it down. Dade knew his greatest skills were in his hands and body. Whether it be with a guitar or a hockey stick. He had proved himself in a myriad of other activities and today it was footballs turn.
* * * * * * *
Sarah and I arrived at the stadium still feeling a little wired and still feeling a little tired. A strange combination. Our new stadium was almost complete. A lot of construction work was still going on but it would be finished in a matter of weeks. Claire deserved a lot of credit for driving a fundraising committee that had been more successful than every prior Merlow High committee combined.
Sarah and I walked in hand in hand and it still felt as though we were almost together. Everyone knew Sarah and I were close but there was just something different about it today. I was still having protective issues I guess. Maybe reminiscing issues too. I knew in myself that nothing will or was going to happen but we seemed to have an intense level of being comfortable with each other. Maybe overcompensation for the time we spent not talking. Who knows? All I know is that right now I wanted to be close to Sarah.
The stadium was not surprisingly full today. Our first home game of the season is always a cracker. I could have helped Claire organize some of the sideline fundraisers but it had slipped my list of things to do this week. Maybe next time.
Wed arrived fashionably late and the game was already underway. Lucas spotted me but he had his game face on and would take no distractions from the stands. Dade was sideline but it looked as though he was warming up to go on. When he did finally get called on both Sarah and I jumped up and cheered as did over half the stands. I smiled to myself with a touch of pride as my brother stepped onto the field for the first time with a crowd of supporters usually only had by veterans like Mike. Dade had his own little teenybopper fan club of girls holding signs with his name on it. I can just imagine him cringing inside when he sees it.
Dade managed a little wave to his fans as he went on and everyone cheered him. I had knots in my stomach right now wondering how he would do. I knew he would do great but I knew it was his first game and this was a different atmosphere for him. Sometimes I wish he had of stayed away from football. He did so well in all the other sports he played, I didnt want him getting wrapped up in the jock machine.
"Dont worry, hell be fine." Sarah said reassuringly. "What a stud. You better make sure he keeps wearing condoms. I know a lot of girls out there want him and he might not be able to say no all the time. We don't want any little Dade's running around just yet. Who can blame them for trying though?"
"I think Id like it if he had a steady girlfriend. He still seems so sad these days. Somethings on his mind. Marcel really took it all out of him. I dont know if its just that or something else but I know that ever since Marcel hes hardly ever dated like before."
"Just give him some time, Storm. I think he does feel like hes on his own sometimes. Youre different. You have all of us. Dade has a lot of friends but nothing close to what we all have. We try to include him but I know he still feels like an outsider a lot. Hes such an awesome person though, I hate seeing him when hes hurt. And I think he has been hurt lately."
"That stupid Blondie. What the hell was he thinking with Dade? He really broke his heart. Marcel should have known better. Dade tries to act hard but hes really impressionable and vulnerable. He craves affection and is easily hurt when others dont reciprocate his feelings. He wears his heart on his sleeve."
"Youre not exactly in the best position to criticize Marcel for being with Dade. You and Lucas have been through hell to get where you are. The age difference between you and Lucas is way more than Marcel and Dade. Lucas is like two years older than you. Marcel is barely ten months older than Dade."
"What about you and Mike? Youre almost a year older than him too. Mikes the baby of our original pack before Dade. But I dont have a problem with you two. It has nothing to do with age. Its the fact that Marcel should have known better. I expect more of him. He was in the position where he could have not let things go as far as they did. Dade wouldnt have been so hurt. Marcel was supposed to have been the mature one."
"Is this the same Storm I was talking to this morning?"
"I know." I said with a sigh. "Its not Marcels fault. I just hate to see Dade hurting. Im protective of him."
Just as I said that, Dade scored a critical intercept that allowed him to score an upset. A proud almost expectant smile passed across my face as the Merlow High supporters jumped to their feet and cheered. The game was against New Lynn Premiers who Merlow had a strong record against but it was still a great score for Dade. He wasnt exactly the biggest player on the field but he had a good dose of speed, power and agility to make up for it. Some good reading of the ball, a nice piece of footwork and a burst of speed had allowed him to break the flow of play and score.
"Hes good." Sarah smiled. "A playmaker. Smart. A natural."
"Usually he is a natural at whatever he does well." I said with a smirk on my face. "Unfortunately for me, I need to work a little bit harder at it."
"Thats your problem. You work too hard at it. Youre a perfectionist."
"This coming from the Intermix Freak who almost tore a muscle training."
"Yeah well " Sarah grinned. "You know, youve really got big balls coming out to the school like that. I can tell its something you didnt really want to do."
"Youre right but I dunno. Im trying not to think about it. Ive gotten enough shit from Stacey over it. You know she wants me to resign, right?"
"She what?" Sarah said angrily.
"Dont get too upset. You get to take over me if I do. Youre next in line."
"Well then I suppose I can handle it." Sarah said with a wry smirk. "You dont want me to cause her any grievous bodily harm?"
"No. Ill deal with it on Monday. Mr. Brooks wants a meeting with me before school. Hes either going to remove me, discipline me or make sure that Im ok with what Im doing."
"Knowing Mr. Brooks itll be the last one. As long as he feels that your judgment is still sound and balanced, he wont do anything. And whether he thinks youre still able to fully represent the student body."
"Funny. Thats what Marty Lee said."
"Its not pretty but you have to think about these things in the real world."
"Yeah, youre right."
"Hey your new best friend is sitting up there all on his lonesome."
"Huh?" I said turning to the stands up further behind us to see who Sarah was talking about. "Who?"
"Brad. Look." Sarah said pointing way up to the back of the upper stadium seats.
I saw him sitting right up the back by himself. No one without five seats of him either side. His focus was intently on the game as if he were studying it. For as much as some parts of Brad had changed, his love for the game remained. It was probably one of the few things from before that was pure in him. His love for the game.
Then his eyes caught mine and he just feigned a small smile and wave. Then he turned away awkwardly and tried to act like he was watching the game.
"Why dont you go up and talk to him? The poor guys been a loner long enough dont you think?"
"Yeah. Dont worry about me."
"Ok then." I said as I kissed the top of her forehead and jumped over the seats.
I jumped on seats as I made my way to the back. Using the aisle would just be too practical. I have a fear of heights and the further up I went the higher I went. When I arrived at the back, I could see all the way down below the back of the stadium out to the parking lot and even all the way out to Lake Herren. It was all a bit woozy for me. I turned to my left to see Brad still watching the game. He didnt see me approach him from the side and I jumped in with a loud crash beside him.
"Hey!" I said smiling widely as I sat down next to Brad. "What the hell are you doing sitting here all by yourself? You should have come over and sat by me and everyone else."
"I dont think Im exactly wanted there. Lots of people still dont like me. Im used to being a loner now."
"Well, Im glad youre here. I wanted to say thanks again for backing me up yesterday. I didnt expect it but I really appreciated it."
"Youre welcome. I just wanted to see how the team was doing this year. I still wish I could play but I was a different person back then."
"Youre still in great shape arent you?"
"Yeah I train a lot by myself still."
"Why dont you come over some time and we can train together? We have a cool gym downstairs that Mike made for us. Well work you till you drop."
"Nah, I dont think Mike would like me there. Its ok, Storm. Im used to doing things on my own now. Gives me time to think."
"Why didnt you try and get back into the team this year, Brad?"
"I dont know. I just dont think Id ever get it back. Too many people dont like me. I dont blame them."
"Well I think you should try. Youve suffered enough. Nobody meant for you to go through all of this, Brad. Youve been humiliated more than anyone else has in school."
"Yeah well you know the saying. What goes around comes around. It came around back to me. I hurt you, Storm. You shouldnt forget that."
"I never do. But Ive moved on. So have you. Lets leave the past in the past." I said extending my hand to Brad.
We shook firmly and Brad smiled a big smile at me. A genuine look of happiness about him. Lighter somehow. I really did wonder how he could almost completely be two different people. The thought of me actually being friends with Brad a year ago would have been ludicrous. Now we seemed to be finding more common ground every day.
"You ever thought about becoming the team manager?"
"You mean washing the uniforms, organizing their transport and all that bum stuff?"
"You have a lot of experience, Brad. You could inject that back into the team. You used to be vice captain. You have a lot to offer."
"I dont think Id get that chance. I dont think theyd want me."
"I can pull some strings for you. I can get you a try out back with the team if you want. Just name it."
"Thanks, Storm. But I dont want you to stick your neck out for me. If I get back in, I can do it myself." Brad said before he urgently turned his attention back to the field just in time to see a unsuccessful play by the Merlow side. "Oh man, I know hes your boyfriend but that was totally the wrong call. They should have utilized the openside instead of going blindside. Now theyve forced an error thats going to lose them major ground. Thats textbook stuff. Lucas needs to stick to defensive. Mike should have made the call on that play. That never would have happened when I was in there."
"Then get back in there." I said with a smile. "After the game, go and talk to Mike. Just talk to him. Mikes one of the most level headed reasonable people I know."
"Hes the best captain. I just dont know if I fit in anymore. And maybe I shouldnt be in there anymore. I dont make a good jock. It goes to my head."
"Yeah well if it does go to your head then my foot wont be far behind."
Brad grinned back at me with the first mischievous grin Ive seen from him in a long time. I really think Im getting through to him. We sat there and watched the rest of the game together. Joking to each other as if wed always been friends. We won the game by fifteen points. A comfortable win but one that Mike would probably not be too pleased with. Still for being the first game out of the season it wasnt a bad one. Dade had put in a strong first performance. Even Marty Lee had put in a solid stellar performance. Lucas seemed to have a few problems handling his new VC spot but Im sure he just needs time. Josh on the other hand seemed to be completely in control at all times. I can see him being a break out leader soon. You could see him picking up some of the slack Lucas was letting slip. Perhaps the idea of them working together was a good one. Lucas was strong on defense and Josh was strong on offense. Mike was strong on everything.
I could see the disappointed look on Lucas face as he walked off the field. He seemed to be looking around for me but couldnt spot me all the way back here. Dade seemed to be pretty happy with himself. Mike was proud of him.
Now that the game was over though, Brad looked at me sideways as if not sure what to say or do now. He made a small smile at me before he stood up and was about to walk away when he hesitated.
"Well thanks for the company."
"You gonna go talk to Mike?"
"Uhhh he looks kinda busy." Brad said grinning.
I turned to see what he was looking and sure enough saw Sarah kissing the captain of the football team. Mike had the happiest smile on his face as he kissed his queen. They were the king and queen of the school right now. The most popular girl and the most popular guy. More than that though it was just Mike and Sarah. And they really seemed to fit together.
"I guess theyre back together?"
"Just something thats meant to be." I said with a proud smile on my face. "Something thats meant to be."
My smile soon faded when I felt someone standing behind me. I could see a frown on Brads face as I turned around to see Marty Lee standing there. He was still breathing a bit heavily having just come off the field. He was covered with sweat and looked at me with an unassuming face, waiting to gauge my reaction.
"Hi, Marty Lee."
"Its Marty, remember?"
"What is it, Marty Lee?"
"Fine." Marty Lee sighed. "Can I talk to you alone please, Storm?"
"No. You can talk to me in front of Brad."
"Okay." Marty Lee said brushing his hand through his hair in sublime frustration. "Im sorry if I hurt your feelings."
"I made a promise to your sister to look out for you. That doesnt mean we have to get along."
"You made a what?" Marty Lee asked surprised.
"Ashley asked me to give you the benefit of the doubt when I hated you the most. When I blamed you for everything going wrong with Lucas. I listened to her. Id rather have friends than enemies. I think that friends are supposed to back each other up. You can disagree with me however much you like. But friends arent supposed to attack friends in front of someone else whos attacking them. You sided with Stacey. I dont want to make a big deal over this. Lets just get on with our lives. I respect your opinion. And you were right in a way. But execution is just as important as the idea behind it. I think were done here." I said motioning for Brad to walk away with me.
"Storm, wait." Marty Lee said about to put his hand on my shoulder. "Please."
Brads hand shot out and grabbed Marty Lees hand before it even touched me. He held it firmly and he and Marty Lee shared a menacing glance that made me step back.
"He said hes done." Brad said angrily. "Now fuck off."
"Brad." I said shaking my head at him.
Brad backed away from a rarely flustered Marty Lee. Their eyes were still fixed angrily on each other but Marty Lee had toned down somewhat. I felt a pang of guilt flood over me as I saw Marty Lees eyes begin to water. He tried to look away and I motioned for Brad to give us a little space.
"Call me." I said putting my hand on Marty Lees shoulder. "Im not angry anymore. Im just "
"Hurt. I didnt react well to you and Lucas getting back together. I still blame him for what happened to Ashley. But thats no excuse. Im sorry, Storm."
"Well talk later." I said with a small smile before I backed off and nodded in acknowledgment at him. "Marty."
Marty Lee just gave me a satisfied smile before he backed off and jogged back down towards the changing rooms. I shook my head and sighed as I turned to a mischievously grinning Brad. We both carried on walking and headed to the nearest stairwell.
"Im getting too old for this shit."
"He likes you."
"Oh come on. Dont tell me you didnt see the way wussy boy was about to cry. I should have noticed yesterday. Thats why he flipped out yesterday. He was jealous. He has a crush on you."
"Oh geez. Thats all I need."
"Hes got it for you real bad. You could see it on his face. He was trying not to cry. What a dork. I knew he was a fag."
I raised my eyebrow at Brad who covered his mouth in embarrassment. We both smiled at each other knowingly and I just nodded that everything was fine. Red faced he removed his hand from his mouth and let a small laugh slip out.
"Im sorry. What am I supposed to call you guys?"
"Well you can call me, Storm. I dont really care what other word you use. But you ever call me a queen and Ill smack you around the head a few thousand times."
"Youre not a queen, Storm. Youre too manly. Plus you still like girls too. What about jackass, can I call you jackass?"
"You know, I dont remember you being this much of a smart ass before." I said grabbing Brads head and giving him a noogie.
"Hey, you know if I ever stay at your house. Youre not going to touch me while Im sleeping are you?"
"What do I look like, some kind of catholic priest?" I said as I stopped knuckling Brads head and began looking at his butt teasingly, all while he was helpless to stop me. "On second thought, you have a pretty face and a hot bod. Maybe I will."
"Freak!" Brad said with a grin as he shook me off. "Although it would be nice if someone did want to touch me. I still havent been with a girl really. Im not really very experienced."
"You used to be really mean, Brad. That turns people off no matter how good you look on the outside. Its only now you seem more attractive because your attitude is a lot different. Soon some girl is going to pick up on that. You just need a bit more self confidence."
"Think you could help me out trying to meet someone? You know give me tips and everything."
"Im not exactly the most confident person you know. Youd be better off asking someone like Dade or Carl or Sarah."
"Shut up. You know everything. I want you to help me."
"You know what?" I said with a smile. "Youre turning out pretty cool, Brad. A punk. But still pretty cool."
* * * * * * *
"Good stuff." Carl said patting Dade on the back. "Youre a natural. Welcome to the team. I bet you cant wait to see who gets decided M.V.P. aye?"
"Oh Im so excited." Dade said with a panting laugh. "That was a great game. I think I did ok."
"You did great. You keep that up and youll be a permanent fixture. And just for the record, I hope I get M.V.P. today so I can make you do all my homework this week. And you can wash my car. Clean my room."
"You wish." Dade said as Josh stepped up beside him and patted his back.
"Great game, Dade. Welcome to the team."
"Thanks. You used to be so timid, Josh. But youre really a leader out there."
"I know. But Lucas is VC not me."
"He made a few errors out there today."
"I might have made the same errors had I been in his position. Maybe he just needs time."
"For my sake I hope you get M.V.P. today. Im not looking forward to some of the things a few people have in mind for me."
"Dont worry. Nobody will make you do anything really bad. Youre too protected."
"Protected?" Dade asked curiously.
"Youre practically Mikes little brother. Nobody will touch you. Not to mention that youre a badass yourself. And youre Storms little brother too. You have too many contacts in high places."
"Yeah, Storms little brother. Cant really forget that now can we?" Dade said slightly annoyed. "Ill take whatever people give me. It shouldnt make a difference who I know."
"So where shall we grab some lunch? My shout."
"Josh! Dade!" Claire yelled from the stands just above where Josh and Dade were walking.
Dade smiled at Claire and left Josh to go and have a word to her while he waited. It was no longer a threesome now. Josh and Claire needed their own space. Dade had become the training wheels on a bike that no longer needed training wheels.
Dade waited patiently as the two held hands and shared a quick chaste kiss and then parted ways again. Claire smiled at Dade and he feigned a smile back before he turned to go towards the changing rooms. Josh fell in beside him blushing red. A blissful smile spread across his face.
"Someone looks happy." Dade remarked as he noted the blush on Joshs face.
"She makes me feel special. I really like her."
"Good." Dade smiled genuinely. "And you are special, Bud."
"None of this could have happened without you, Dade. I owe everything to you. You became my friend. You got Claire and I together. You made me feel good about myself. You made me what I am now. I wont forget that."
"You sound like youre giving me the flick or something."
"Well actually, I "
"You and Claire just made plans again?"
"Well yeah. I didnt mean to it just I knew wed just made plans but "
"Thats ok, Josh." Dade said shrugging his shoulders. "Youve got a girl now. Shes gotta be your top priority. Its cool."
And once again Dade left feeling rejected and expendable. He headed straight into the changing rooms that was full of players and training staff. A loud raucous madhouse full of teenage testosterone and loud bravado.
"Ok guys! Listen up!" Coach Anderson said as he stepped into the changing room full of dirty, sweaty, bleeding and tired players. "Good game for your first time out. Some of the combinations arent working the way I would like but this was first game as a unit and a lot of the players are new this season so we have a few kinks to work on. Training this week will be a gut buster. Be warned. There were too many errors out there. Some basic handling errors. Defensive errors. Misread plays and executions. We can take positive out of the fact that had we been on our game as we should be, those New Lynn Premiers would have been devastated instead of just barely beaten. I expect more of you and I will get more from you because I know you have more to give. The first M.V.P. of the season is a player who made an outstanding debut. That player is none other than Marty Lee Miller."
* * * * * * *
I sat at the back of the school waiting for Lucas having left Brad to perform some of his duties at the library. I cant wait till I have some wheels again so I can wait in the parking lot instead. I sat in the circle of trees that most knew as the fight zone. It was a fairly secluded spot that I could wait for Lucas in peace at. Id passed a message on for him to meet me here and just hoped that he got it or Id be waiting by myself for a long while.
As it happens I didnt have to wait long at all. I could see Lucas figure through the trees way off in the distance. He was talking to a few people so I just lay back on the grass and waited. Finally I could hear his footsteps nearing and I sat up again just in time to see him walk through the trees and feign a smile at me. He let out a deep sigh and crashed to the ground next to me. He held his arm over his eyes and moaned to himself.
"What a bad day."
"You ok, Babe?"
"No. Didnt you see my performance?"
"Yeah, I did. So you made a few mistakes. Its your first day as VC. You guys need time to gel together. Is that all youre down about?"
"No. Did you and Sarah sort everything out?" Lucas asked as he pulled his arm from over his eyes and turned to look at me.
There was more left unsaid than said but I knew what he was asking. My eyes cast away with pangs of guilt and I sighed to myself. Lucas waited patiently for an answer from me and I soon mustered one that should categorically allay all of his fears.
"Good." Lucas said still sounding a little bit annoyed. "Lets leave it at that."
"Ok." I said submissively. "Is there anything else wrong?"
"No well yes. Just some pricks chanting faggot on the sidelines. Kinda threw me off."
"I dont know. Some fans from New Lynn."
"Are you sure they knew or were they just chanting that to get smart? I dont know how news would spread that far that fast."
"Youre probably right. It still unnerved me though. They were calling Carl a faggot too. He started swearing back at them and almost got sent off."
"I was wondering what that was all about."
"Isnt life just great." Lucas said half heartedly as he sat up next to me.
We sat there not saying anything for a while. It wasnt an altogether uncomfortable silence but a silence nonetheless. We both had thoughts running around in our head that didnt need any vocal interpretation just yet. Lucas seemed to have a lot of things going on in his head right now. His eyes were deeply focused ahead of him. I didnt dare to interrupt him so I just sat there breathing in the cool breeze that blew through and raised my spirits a little. You always have little moments of reality. Theyre different for everyone.
Sometimes Ill just be sitting there and theyll hit. For an instant everything just seems more real. Its like a flash when you realize how lucky you are to be alive and how wonderful it is just to be able to breathe clean air and appreciate your surroundings. For me they usually come when nothing is being said. When the sun is shining. Im sitting outside. On a beach. A hillside. In a field. Or with people I care about. And then itll just hit. Its like the perfect moment. Your senses heighten and you appreciate everything. It sticks in your mind. Ive had two of those moments today. One with Sarah and one now with Lucas.
Maybe it was just the blue sky, the sun and the cool breeze through the trees getting the better of me. Who knows? But I felt it. I think Lucas did too. We both smiled to each other and he slipped his hand into mine before he leaned over and placed the smallest kiss on me. And that was it. Nothing more needed to be said. Just feeling his soft skin and presence next to me was enough. Everything else could wait.
* * * * * * *
Brad grabbed his books from his locker and packed them into his bag, preparing to head home. Hed finished his short Saturday library shift and was now free to go. Surprisingly he did this with little enthusiasm. For him, immersing himself in the world of literature had become his escape lately. His solitude. The one place he wasnt branded or despised. The one place he could pretend he had real friends. It was all fiction but to Brad it didnt matter. He could be Legolas. He could be Clark Kent. He could be Captain Nemo. He didnt have to be Brad Sisto. Former VC. Former Bully. Currently despised. In the world of words he could be free.
Brad had never been one to pick up a book and read it. Never been one to venture into the library. His forced exile however gave him more than enough time to become quickly accustomed to the art of reading. But for today the time in his fortress of solitude had come to an end and he was forced to reenter the real world and more importantly, go home. He wondered if his life were about to change now. He almost believed his time of being chastised and exiled was over. The thought of this excited him so much he feared even entertaining the idea. Surely things were about to get better.
Brad closed his locker and locked it. Not noticing a figure standing next to him, leaning against a locker. His fingers tapping the cold steel in an eerie rhythm.
"Hello, Brad." Marty Lee said with his resurrected malicious smile.
"Marty Lee." Brad said nervously, looking around to see if anyone else were nearby.
Brad took a few steps back and gulped as Marty Lee taunted him with his constant stare. His eyes continuously fixed on Brads retreating figure. Brads heart began beating rapidly as he picked up on Marty Lees intentions. Pain.
"That was a brave thing you did today, Brad." Marty Lee said smiling wickedly. "A very brave thing. Even braver than yesterday."
"I I was just watching out for Storm. Hes my friend now."
"No he isnt, you stupid fool. He takes pity on you. Theres a difference." Marty Lee said stepping off the locker and taking slow deliberate steps towards Brad. "Youre a fool if you think hes truly your friend."
"Youre just jealous because hes not your friend. If Storm were here, hed tell you. Im his friend."
"You truly are pathetic." Marty Lee said laughingly.
"Why dont you just fuck off, Marty Lee? Nobody likes you here. Go away." Brad said looking constantly around him, trying to see the quickest exit route.
"Youre scared. Thats understandable. If I were you, Id be scared."
"Im not sorry for what I did today, Marty Lee. Im not going to apologize."
"I dont expect you to. You know Im Storms friend too. And if I heard correctly. You once beat the shit out of my dear friend. Didnt you?"
"That was a long time ago. Im different now. Storm forgave me. Ive already been punished for it."
"You know Storm may let you get away with crossing him. But thats where Storm and I are different. I never let anyone get away with crossing me. And definitely not twice. Do you understand?" Marty Lee said standing face to face with Brad. "Do you know what happens to people who cross me?"
Brad gulped, realizing he had inadvertently been cornered. "W what?"
Brad didnt even make it one step away before Marty Lee grabbed Brads right hand and ripped his arm back behind him. Before Brad even knew what was happening, Marty Lee had unleashed a devastating combo on a hapless Brad. Brad was powerless to defend himself against an attack that was so swift and precise, he could only pray for an end to come. A dozen rapid shots to the head, sternum, ribs and midsection before Brad could even fall to the ground. His face had been busted open and the crunching sound his collar bone made didnt hold any good fortune. But even that wasnt enough for Marty Lee. He still held on to Brads right arm and kicked Brad with all his might in his shoulder. Dislocating Brads arm. Brad let out a terrifying cry as sharp pain racked through his body but still Marty Lee wasnt done. He threw Brads limp, shivering, sobbing body to the ground and stood over him before he grabbed the exact same right arm again. Holding it menacingly above and behind Brads limp face down body.
"Brad youre right handed? Am I correct?"
Brad was sobbing profusely now, his face racked with tears and blood streaming from his nose and mouth. Brad couldnt even form the words he was in so much pain and muzzled by his own sobs. And when the sickening sound of his wrist being snapped came, his already pain stricken face could only contort silently with the agony. Shivering as though in shock. His sobs consuming him and his gasps finding no reprieve from the merciless attack that had just been dealt to him.
"I dare you to tell anyone who did this to you." Marty Lee snickered as he leant down next to Brads ear. "I simply dare you."
And with that threat made, Marty Lee stood up and walked calmly away. Brad remained face down on the ground. Shaking, shivering, sobbing, bleeding and broken.
Brads own blood left a trail behind him as he tried desperately to pull himself along the ground. He was so disoriented and in pain that his voice had nothing behind it. Just empty gasps muzzled by tears and sobs. The pain. It was all Brad could do to stop himself from passing out. He finally managed to get to a wall and hauled himself up painfully to lean against it. The pain in his right arm and shoulder shooting through him with every slight movement. Finally Brad snapped. His head faltered down and he simply cried. And cried. And when he thought he couldnt cry anymore. He kept crying. He was truly a broken body and a broken spirit. Things were not going to get better after all.
* * * * * * *
Dade stood under the shower with his eyes closed. He let the water fall over him, cleansing his body and easing his mind. The warm water helped soothe his aching muscles and he let out a deep sigh. Today had not been a great day. Dade was feeling more and more isolated with each passing day. Less and less noticed and more and more ignored or unimportant. Just when he had almost convinced himself that he was worthy of attention from the people he most respected and loved. Now for some reason it seemed as if all of that were just slipping away from him.
It was true that Dade had never fully recovered the rejection and hurt he felt as things went sour between himself and Marcel. Dade had never exposed or given so much of himself to anyone before. Everything else was superficial, carnal or downright empty. But still he ached. Still he hurt. Still he wondered why he wasnt good enough for Marcel even though his own logic told him that it just wasnt practical to keep going. But still he hurt. Even now. For so many different reasons that all seemed to still constantly haunt him. Marcel. Storm. His mother. Even Josh.
Tears of frustration began building in him as he leaned his forehead against the shower wall and cried out softly. He was in pain. He was hurting. There seemed no way out.
His melancholy state was suddenly disrupted by a knock at the door. Luckily Dade was using the downstairs bathroom and could hear the knocking. He rubbed his face to and rinsed off quickly before he stepped out of the shower and quickly threw some clothes on as he left the bathroom and dashed for the front door. He opened it without looking through the window to see who it was and an awkward frown quickly passed over his face.
"You." Dade said in a half hearted attempt to be angry, but his joy was evident.
"Not even a hi?" A tired, worn looking Marcel Lewis said as he let himself in, dropped his bags and closed the door behind him. "Hi, Dade."
Marcels long blonde locks were no longer. His hair was somewhat shorter and had a tidier look about it. As if somehow he was now older. More mature. His face also wore a frown similar to Dades although it was obviously for reasons Dade did not know about. Marcel was tired and Dade knew it.
"Ive been traveling all night to get here. It took me three separate flights, one delayed connection and a useless taxi driver to get me here. Im tired, Dade. Lets not fight."
"Im not fighting. Im leaving." Dade said throwing his bag over his shoulder.
"I thought that was a Storm trait. Not a Dade one." Marcel said almost half bitterly as Dade walked past him.
Dade stopped in his tracks, an almost placid look coming over his face. He turned his head slightly so he was almost looking back. Marcel doing exactly the same.
"Must be genetic." Dade said softly before he walked out the door closing it behind him.
"That went well, Marcel." Marcel sighed as he walked into the living room and fell down on the lounge suite.
A large yawn let loose from him as he dropped his keys on the coffee table. He really was tired. It had been a long haul to get back here so quick. Things felt different this time. He felt a lot older now. As if being at the academy had forced him to grow up about three years before his time. Coming back to this household seemed somehow less familiar now. He wondered if the house felt different because it had been so long since hed been here or because both Storm and Dade were getting older now too and it was more of an adult household.
Normally he wouldnt have a problem just going to sleep right there but for some reason he had to think about it now. He picked up the phone and dialed in Junes private work number, hoping that she wouldnt be busy right now.
"June Marcus. How can I help you?" the familiar voice said on the other end.
"Hi, Mom." Marcel said with a smile on his face.
It still came naturally to call June, Mom, even though he knew that he was probably the one least qualified to call her that. For Mike it had a deep and serious meaning. And although Marcel regarded June in much the same way since she had been the key maternal figure in his life since he moved to Merlow, he knew it was just as much an affectionate name for him than a literal one.
"Marcel! Hi, Sweetheart." June said with obvious affection. "Where are you calling from? How are you?"
"Im fine, Mom. Im at your house, I just wanted to make sure it was ok for me to crash out over here. I just got in and Im dead tired. Do you think I could stay for a few days too?"
"What about your parents?"
"Theyre not in town anyway. Id rather stay here. Is that ok?"
"Sure it is. You can have Lucas old bed in Mikes room. Ill be looking forward to seeing you when I get home tonight. You have a lot to catch me up on. Is everything ok besides?"
"Well, I came back to see Sarah."
"So she told you?"
"Im glad she did. Shell need as much support as she can get."
"How bad is it really, Mom? She said that everything was under control but you know what shes like. Strong as an ox and stubborn as a mule."
"Its serious, Honey. She knows what her options are. She knows the grading and seriousness of her condition and that the next months will probably be crucial for her. Shes not terminal if thats what youre asking."
"Thank god for that." Marcel said sighing in relief.
"But she is high risk. Her options for treatment and their obvious effects on her were probably what prompted her to finally tell everyone."
"So we could still lose her then?"
For an instant, Marcel heard hesitation in Junes voice before she was about to speak. It sent a chill up his spine and he became tense with sudden fear and anxiety.
"Theres always that possibility but we have to be positive here. We know how strong Sarah is. If anyone can beat this, Sarah can. I and I know all of you will stand by her at this time and we just have to keep a positive outlook and act supportively and constructively. Her parents are intent on giving her the best treatment and I intend to make sure she gets it. And with all of you by her side, Sarah couldnt wish for better support."
"Thanks, Mom." Marcel said as he felt his heart sink, closing his eyes and feeling himself about to give in to tears.
"Well all get through this, Sweetheart. Sarah is loved by a great many people. Sometimes that is a powerful medicine in and of itself."
"I hope so." Marcel said frustratedly as he could no longer hold the silent tears at bay.
It was obvious to Marcel that June could hear his quiet sniffles over the phone and he tried his best to quell them. But to no avail. He tried to shake the dark thoughts from his mind but fear was rampant in him.
"Sweetheart, I know this is hard but we have to be strong for Sarah."
"Will you be home soon? I really would like to see you soon." Marcel said whimpering. "I I need you. And not just for this Sarah thing but I just need you."
"I know, Honey. Youve been out there so long all on your own without anybody. Its about time you spent some time with people you care about and who care about you. You need some support of your own. Ill be home soon. Im not working late tonight. You just rest up ok. Ill see you soon, Sweetheart."
"Ok, Mom." Marcel said trying not to sound like such a cry baby. "I missed you and I love you. See you soon."
"I love you too, Sweetheart. See you soon."
"Bye." Marcel said hanging up the phone.
He lay back and held a cushion over his head and let what remaining tears he had out. For once he felt like he could release the long embedded frustration and anguish inside him. He was home now. This was sanctuary. It was ok for him to hurt here. He was home.
Marcel had come home.
* * * * * * *
Well Season 4 is underway now. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. A few biggies in that chapter. Josh seems to have everything just the way he wanted now. But his inability to balance his friendship and relationships will soon cost him. His honeymoon bliss has made him forget his best friend but when things go sour, will he still have a best friend to go to?
Marty Lee is beginning to show his true colors. Dade is on a downward track unless someone once and for all gets to the root of all his depression. Brad's life has just gone from bad to worse right when he thinks he has finally made amends.
Lucas is having a tricky run at it right now. He has what he wants. That should be enough, right? Storm's actions while understandable were not entirely honorable. Lucas' nature is different enough now that he doesn't just yield to Storm's wishes or do things just to make Storm feel better. He is somewhat wiser and their relationship is stronger as a result. He is a different Lucas to the one from the first season. A little less naive, a little more real.
Mike is oblivious to certain aspects of Sarah's pain but this is to be expected since they have only just recently begun rebuilding their relationship. And the biggie of this chapter would be the revelation of what has been bothering Sarah over the past seasons. This particular theme is drawn from my own personal experiences as are many elements from Storm Front. I've had several members of my family affected by cancer. My cousin died from it at 17. My oldest sister still fights cervical cancer..
I always knew this would happen to Sarah. I hope people aren't too quick to judge her character after her moment of weakness with Storm. She's not as strong as everyone's used to in this chapter and facing a few personal demons. It's time for people to start looking out for her.
And last but not least, Marcel's back. And obviously he will still be in the next chapter too. The pack is circling around for the first time in a long time. And they're going to need each other. I hope you enjoyed that chapter. Until next time we visit Merlow, I'll see you on the flipside.
Stay Tuned for SF27: Winds
of Change and send me a note** to let me
know what you thought of Chapter 26: Forget the Rest
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