When I See You Again

By LittleBuddhaTW

Special thanks to Sharon (Sat8997) for editing!

This is a story involving teenage gay males and may include sexually explicit content and adult language. If this kind of material is offensive to you, you are under the age of 18, or is illegal in the area where you live, do not read any further.


I hated when I wasn't able to control a game. It was the worst feeling in the world to be sitting on the bench, watching the game unraveling in front of my eyes, and not being able to do anything about it. We were in the top of the second inning, and our opponents, the team from East Texas -- which was favored to win the whole tournament -- had already scored four runs off of Rory's pitching. Rory was obviously frustrated, as was Brennan, who had already made several trips out to the mound, and was visibly upset. They were able to hit almost everything he threw at them.

By the time we finally got three outs, East Texas was up by six runs. Rory's eyes were filled with tears as he jogged back to the dugout, tossed his glove on the ground, and slumped into his seat on the bench. He was obviously trying to keep from breaking down altogether. I still didn't particularly like him, but I felt horrible anyway.

"Hey, man, it's okay," I said, trying my best to console him, and helping him to apply an ice pack to his arm. "You got the three outs, and we're still in this."

"I don't know what the fuck is going wrong!" he shouted. "I look like an idiot out there!"

As Rory sat there on the bench next to me, shaking like a leaf, I took a deep breath and hesitantly put my arm around him. Expecting him to push me away, I was surprised when he actually scooted closer and rested his head on my shoulder.

"You need to keep your fastball down," I suggested, a little taken aback by his sudden gesture of affection, but not willing to reject him, especially considering his apparently fragile emotional state at the moment.

"They're able to drive your high fastballs," I continued. "If you can get it lower, they'll just hit ground balls, and our defense can take care of that."

I didn't know what else to say or do. Brennan wasn't doing anything to help settle Rory down, and Coach was talking strategy with the next couple of batters, so it was up to me.
Maybe Rory wasn't such a bad guy after all, and I wasn't about to leave him sitting there by himself, stewing in his own misery, just because he'd been an ass to me in the past. Not to mention, with the way things had been going with Brennan over the past day or so, I didn't think it was such a bright idea to push away new friendships, even if it was Rory.

Brennan did end up helping at the plate in the bottom of the second inning, though, hitting a solo home run to at least get our team on the board.

When the top half of the third inning began, I smacked Rory on the butt as he headed out to the mound. Apparently, my little pep talk helped. Rory picked up the velocity on his fastball, and his location was much better. After walking the lead-off batter, he got the next three outs and didn't allow another run.

By the time I got into the game in the fifth inning, it was all but over, and we were preparing ourselves for our first loss. Coach took Rory out in the fourth inning and replaced him with Tom, the third pitcher in our rotation. Tom typically played third base and had a cannon for an arm. His mom, Miss Lena, was one of the more involved parents on our team and was really nice to all of us kids, frequently buying us pizza after games or bringing us brownies and cookies.

Tom had moved to our town from England with his mom only three years before. He'd never played baseball, only soccer. He was also an avid swimmer, and had won a number of junior swimming championships in both England and the States. Tom was very good-looking, a little shorter than me, with a very slender frame, boyish good looks, light brown hair that he wore in an almost crew cut, and deep, penetrating hazel eyes that made him look like he was always deep in thought, yet with a hint of mischief hidden behind them.

He was also extremely quiet, hardly ever saying a word to anyone. Tom did his talking on the field -- he was a good pitcher, and probably our best defensive player in the infield. And, out of everyone on the team -- except for Brennan, of course -- Tom was the one I most wanted to be friends with. Unfortunately, since we were both so shy, we never really got the chance to hit it off. I had been hoping to get to know him better while in Williamsport, but with David coming into my life and all, it seemed like that wasn't going to happen now.

Back in The Grove, the whole team was pretty bummed about our defeat, especially Rory. At dinner, he didn't say a word to anyone, and just went back to our room while everyone else was horsing around in the game room.

Fortunately, since it was a pool play tournament, we weren't out of it yet. If we managed to win our next game, we would still be able to make the semi-finals. The only issue now was who would be the starting pitcher for the next game. Tom was still available to pitch, but if we lost that game, then our run at the championship would be finished. If I were to pitch and we did win, though, I wouldn't be available to pitch in the semi-finals. It was a major strategic decision, and we were all hoping Mr. Bellinger would make the right choice.

I hadn't been following the International teams very much, since we would only be playing one of them if we made it to the final game. The buzz around The Grove, though, was that my buddies from the Chinese Taipei team had been very impressive so far. Most people expected that it would be either them or the team from Japan as the representatives for the International teams in the World Series. They were a lot smaller physically than most of the American teams, but they were fundamentally sound, quick on the base paths, and their defenses hardly made any mistakes. It was definitely turning out to be an interesting tournament so far.

Despite our positive outlook, though, my mind was still elsewhere. Brennan was still ignoring me, and I couldn't seem to get through to him. Fortunately, I still had David to hang out with, and we spent most of the rest of the day after the game chilling together and watching some of the other games that were going on, and gorging ourselves on hot dogs, kettle corn, and funnel cakes from the concession stand. At first, I didn't want to burden David with my problems, but I got to the point where I couldn't hold it in any longer. I had to talk to someone. I needed someone to tell me that I was just being paranoid, and that everything was going to be okay.

"Just give him some time," he said, giving me a sympathetic look. "It sounds like it's just been you two for so long now, you're like brothers. Of course it's gonna be hard for him if you start hanging out with other people."

His advice made sense, but I hated feeling this way. I wanted ... no, I needed to solve whatever the problem was with Brennan. I couldn't stand the way this was making me feel. It wasn't the first time we'd fought, but we'd always talked about it, and we'd rarely, if ever, gone to sleep angry.

"But if I sit around just waiting for him to get over it, it's gonna spoil the whole World Series. We were supposed to be doing this together," I whined. I wasn't usually much of a whiner, but this situation was bringing out the worst in me. I felt like I was losing my very best friend in the whole world. How else was a twelve-year-old kid supposed to react?

"Maybe we shouldn't hang around each other too much, then," he suggested. "I don't want to get in between you two."

"No!" I practically shouted, surprising myself a little at the forcefulness of my response. "I mean ... you're my friend ... I really like you. I want to spend time with you."

I immediately saw the effect of my words on David when he blushed, but his look quickly turned somber.

"Yeah, me too," he sighed. "But we live so far apart. When the World Series is over, you're gonna go back to Michigan, and I'll go back to Alabama. How can we still be friends?"

If I didn't feel bad enough already, hearing David say that made things even worse.

I wasn't stupid, and I guess deep down I knew that the chances of David and I continuing our friendship after the World Series were pretty slim, but I was having trouble admitting that to myself. I'd been so proud of myself for making a new friend. It wasn't fair that that would be taken away from me after only a few days. Not to mention, all of these new feelings that had been bubbling to the surface over the past few days, and now I wouldn't get a chance to explore what it all meant with him.

"There's MySpace, and IM'ing, and we have our cell phones," I countered. "We can stay in touch if we both really try. And we can try to find ways to see each other, like maybe at Christmas or in the summers."

He had a wistful look in his eyes. "I'd like that, but neither of us has much money. It'd be really hard."

"Can we please not talk about that yet? We're both here right now; we can worry about that stuff later."

"Sure," he answered. "We'll have fun together while we can."


"I need you to start tomorrow, Grady," Mr. Bellinger announced.

That was the best news I'd heard in a while. Strategically, it was probably the best decision. Our record was 1-1, so if we lost again, we'd be out of the tournament and our dream journey would be over. Of course, it meant that I wouldn't be available to pitch in the semi-finals or U.S. championship game, but I wouldn't have been able to do that if we'd lost the pool play round, either. The most important thing was advancing, and Mr. Bellinger thought that having me pitch was our best shot.

The team was pleased as well. The only ones who seemed less than ecstatic were Dalton ... and Brennan. And that could be a serious problem. If Brennan and I weren't talking, how were we going to work together out on the field? All I could do was hope that he'd put his problem behind us for the sake of the team and our chances of making the championship game.

The next morning at breakfast, I couldn't eat. I just stared at the Frosted Flakes swimming in my bowl. The funny thing was, I usually didn't get very nervous before games, but this particular game was so important to us. If we lost, we would be eliminated from the tournament and our season would be over. There was also one other little detail that had been bothering me. We were going to be playing the team from Alabama -- David's team.

When I told him that I was going to be the starting pitcher against his team, David actually seemed thrilled. I was surprised that he seemed to be rooting for me more than his own team. Part of me was excited that I'd have the chance to get back at some of those kids who'd been so mean to David, but it also meant that it would be my job to get David out, and I didn't like that idea at all. Would I be able to put my personal feelings for David aside and stay "professional" on the mound? I wasn't so sure -- no one had ever made me feel this way before, and I had no idea where these new feelings would take me.

I had thought I was stressed out during our first game, but this was ridiculous. Brennan and I usually went over our strategy before each game, after having reviewed the other team's lineup with Mr. Bellinger. Brennan hadn't said a word to me yet, though, and I was getting worried. If there were problems in our friendship, that was one thing, but this could jeopardize the game!

At least I wasn't the only one who noticed that Brennan was acting strangely. His dad seemed to notice that Brennan wasn't saying anything during our usual pre-game discussions, and asked him what was wrong. Brennan replied that he was just a little tired and trying to focus, but I knew it was more than that. Unfortunately, Mr. Bellinger didn't seem to want to get into it and disrupt things right before the game, although I was kind of hoping he would, at least to get Brennan to communicate with me a little better, at least for our team's sake.

After I threw my final warm-up toss, I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Brennan take off his mask and trot out to the mound.

"These guys have some power, so keep the ball down and force them to hit ground balls ... unless you just want to strike them all out," he said, although he barely even made eye contact with me.

"Brennan, I'm sorry," I interrupted. "I'm really, really sorry."

"Stop it, Grady," he said, giving me a pointed look. "All I care about is winning this one."

"But we're still best friends, right?" I asked, my bottom lip quivering as I tried to fight back my tears.

"Right now, I'm your catcher," he replied, with no emotion in his voice, as he put his mask back on and returned to his spot behind the plate.

I was devastated ... absolutely crushed.

As I stood there, almost too stunned to think, I actually contemplated just walking off the mound and going back into the dugout. How could I play my best when I'd most likely just lost my best friend in the whole world? How could he do this to me?!?!

But, rather than giving myself over to the tears that were threatening to come streaming out, I found myself getting pissed off instead. Brennan knew me better than anyone. He had to have known how saying something like that would affect me. But, I was pissed at myself, too, for letting my emotions have control over my performance on the field. I knew I wouldn't get very far in baseball if I let that happen, so I had to put a stop to it.

I called the infield over to talk before the game got underway.

"How do you think we should handle these guys?" I asked everyone.

"You don't need try to strike them all out," Rory suggested. "Keep your fastball low and make them hit grounders. We'll take care of the rest."

"I dunno," Tom interrupted. "They're expecting your fastball, so hit them with lots of curveballs. They're a good hitting team, so they're gonna go after almost anything; just make sure you don't throw the ball where they can hit it."

"Brennan?" I asked, turning to my best friend -- or, rather, who I hoped was still my best friend.

"Whatever, dude," he shrugged, as he turned to go back to the plate.

I noticed the odd looks my teammates were giving Brennan. They'd obviously noticed his attitude change as well. So be it -- we would win with or without him.

As the game got underway, I quickly noticed how my anger at Brennan actually seemed to be helping my game. It was like the other team wasn't even there, and I was just throwing the ball to Brennan ... at him, actually. I'd ignored both Rory's and Tom's advice, and just hurled the most wicked fastballs I could conjure up. Everything seemed to be clicking -- my balance was perfect, the rotation of my hips, shoulders, and arm were perfectly synchronized, and I was throwing as hard as I'd ever thrown before.

Something that I did notice was a little different, though, was that my fastball was starting to show a lot of movement. Typically, when I threw the heater, it traveled in a fairly straight line to Brennan's glove. Now, though, it was tailing in toward the batter, or drifting away as it neared the plate, yet still averaging close to 75 mph. It was filthy, it was nasty, and the other team didn't seem to know what to do with it.

Unfortunately, Brennan wasn't quite sure what to do with it, either, and let several get past him. Fortunately for me, no one happened to be on base when that happened, so it didn't end up hurting us. It did make me realize, though, that if my fastball was going to start moving around so much, I was going to have to work on my control a little more.

By the fifth inning, the game was as good as over. Rory had hit a three-run homer in our half of the second inning, and Connor knocked in two more runs with a line drive double down the right field line in the fourth inning. I hadn't had much luck up at the plate, but I was doing my job on the mound, allowing only two hits the entire game, so I wasn't concerned. Brennan, on the other hand, was a mess. He seemed frustrated and flustered the whole time. Between his not being able to hang on to a lot of my pitches, he'd struck out twice and popped up to the catcher in his three at-bats.

As I stepped onto the mound and readied myself for my next victim, the bottom nearly dropped out of my stomach when I saw David walk up to the plate, visibly trembling. I wasn't afraid of much when it came to baseball, but this scenario terrified me. David had been picked on so much by his teammates for not being one of the better players on the team, and I didn't want to make it worse.

I bent down to look for Brennan's call. His index finger pointed straight down signaled for me to throw my fastball, and he set up directly behind the plate, giving me a target right down the middle. My heart was racing as I saw David standing there, his eyes focused on me, and his hands choked up on the bat.

I went into my wind-up, reared back, and threw my heater. David took a wild swing and missed. Immediately, I heard jeers from his team's dugout, and it pissed me off. How could they boo him now when nearly everyone one of them had been struck out already? That pissed me off, and although the game was already lost for them, maybe I could do something to really make them look like idiots.

As David stepped up to the plate again, Brennan changed his call to a curveball and set up on the inside of the plate. This time, though, I ignored his call and threw another fastball right down the middle -- but at a much lower velocity than normal for me.

As soon as I heard the crack of the bat against the ball, I knew it was gone. I didn't even have to turn around to see that David had hit it out of the park.

For a few moments, as David rounded the bases, his face beaming, I enjoyed watching the expressions on the faces of his asshole teammates, and finally, the butt slaps and high-fives they gave him when he reached home plate.

My happy moment was soon over, though, when I saw Brennan standing there, scowling at me. He knew that I'd done that on purpose, and he knew that I knew that he knew. It was an awkward moment, to say the least. But, he was obviously mad at me already, so why not just give him one more reason to be pissed? It sure as hell wasn't going to make things any worse.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

We ended up winning the game, but as soon as we got back to the dorms, I was confronted with an infuriated Brennan. I'd never seen him so livid, and I didn't even have a chance to speak before he socked me right in the jaw. I hit the floor like a sack of wet cement.

The next few moments were a blur. Several of my teammates rush to my side to help me up, and players from the other teams started to crowd around to see what all the excitement was. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Bellinger make a bee-line toward Brennan, and in the brief moment before he grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, I saw a heart-wrenching look of pain and guilt flash across my best friend's face. I should have felt satisfied, knowing that he realized he'd gone too far, realizing that he'd hurt me. Funnily enough, though, I felt bad for him. After all, he was my best friend.

Mr. Bellinger ordered Tom to take me to the first aid station to check out my face. As we were walking away from the scene of the crime, so to speak, I heard my teammates angrily questioning Brennan about why he'd hit me. I didn't hear a response, though.

Tom sat with me while the medic checked me out, gave me an ice pack, and a couple aspirin.

"Why did Brennan hit you?" Tom suddenly asked, after the medic had finished his work. "I thought you two were special friends."

Special friends? What did he mean by that?

Tom quickly looked away and blushed. "I mean, everyone knows you two are best friends. I've never seen you two fight like that."

"I dunno," I sighed. "You'll have to ask Brennan."

We sat there in silence for a few more minutes, Tom helping to hold the ice pack against my cheek when my arm got too tired.

"You know," he whispered, leaning in closer. "If you ever want to talk ... I mean, about Brennan ... or stuff ... I don't mind ... I mean, I'd like to talk to you about it ... if you want."

I looked over at Tom, and my heart fluttered as I saw the look of concern in his eyes. But, before I had the chance to respond, Mr. Bellinger appeared and led us back to the room, where I was sure there were bound to be lots of questions about what had just happened.


"You two need to work out whatever the hell you need to work out," Coach said, his voice calm and even. His tone left no room for argument. He was pissed, and we both knew he meant business.

Mr. Bellinger had dragged both of us into his room and closed the door, leaving the two of us standing there staring at each other. At first, I felt incredulous that he seemed to be blaming me as well for what had happened, but then again, I had intentionally given up a home run in one of the most important games of our young lives. It wasn't like we were likely to lose the game because of that, and we hadn't -- we'd won handily -- but that was beside the point. I'd betrayed my teammates.

I heard the door close behind us, and realized that we were alone. I wasn't so sure that was a good idea. Would Brennan attack me again? Would he tell me we really weren't friends anymore? If I didn't have Brennan in my life, what did I really have to live for? Where would I go to get away from my parents? Who would hold me when I felt like the world was closing in on me? Other than baseball, Brennan was my universe. And, without Brennan, would I even want to play baseball anymore?

"I'm sorry," he whispered, suddenly breaking me out of my thoughts.

It took a few moments for those words to register. It wasn't at all what I was expecting him to say.

I looked up to see Brennan standing there, arms by his sides, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, looking completely dejected. I noticed a single tear trickling down his face, and it was suddenly more than my twelve-year-old heart could handle. I didn't know what I could possibly say. Things had just gotten too ... emotional. So, I started to cry.

For several minutes, we both just stood there crying softly. I didn't know what I was supposed to do, and I didn't think he knew, either. It would have been a lot easier had Mr. Bellinger stayed and told us how we should handle this kind of situation. Sure, Brennan and I had fought before, but never anything this serious, and neither of us had ever hit the other.

Finally, Brennan bridged the gap between us and threw his arms around me, and I started crying even harder.

"I'm so sorry, Grady," he sniffled, latching on to me as if he was afraid I was going to try to run away. "I didn't mean to hurt you, I swear to God!"

I managed to return his embrace, but I was still at a loss for words. I wanted to tell him I forgave him, but I couldn't get the words out, just more sobs and sniffles. Hopefully, my hugging him back let him know that I was okay, and that I didn't hate him.

Eventually, after several minutes of standing there sobbing and holding each other, we managed to sit down on the small twin bed, although our bodies remained in close contact, his arm wrapped around the small of my back, and my head resting on his shoulder.

"I really am sorry, Grady," he whispered, after we'd finally calmed down from our crying spells. Brennan pulled me even closer, and I melted into him. He'd been the cause of much of my frustration and angst, but he was also the best tonic I could imagine. And yes, even more than David -- or anyone else -- could ever be.

"Why were you so mad at me?" I finally asked. "Is it because of David?"

I didn't even really need to ask that question. I already knew what the answer was. Brennan and I had been best friends for too long to not know at least some of what was going on in each other's heads.

"Yeah, I was being stupid, man," he sighed. "I dunno, I just thought ... I just thought this was gonna be you and me. It's always been you and me ... and then you go and start hanging out with this kid you've never even met before. I mean, you've never just gone and made friends with someone like that. It's not like you, and I guess it kinda weirded me out."

"But you've always told me I needed to make more friends," I responded, lifting my head off his shoulder to look at him. I winced involuntarily as I saw the depth of the hurt that he had been feeling, written clearly in his eyes and tear-stained cheeks. As much as I found myself becoming infatuated with my new friendship with David, I would never have pursued it if I'd known how deeply it would hurt my best friend.

"You're right," he said, breaking the eye contact. "But, I guess I just never expected you to do it ... and when you did, well, I guess I didn't handle it all that good."

In all the time we'd been friends, this was already turning into one of the more emotional conversations we'd ever had, and to be honest, I didn't want to get all worked up again. I just wanted things to go back to the way they were -- with one exception, I'd been having strange feelings that I'd never experienced before, for a boy I'd just met a few days earlier. A boy!

And, the more I thought about that, and the ramifications for what that might mean for me, I really didn't want to face it right then. I was just a kid, for chrissakes. All I really wanted was to play baseball and chill with my best friend ... and maybe hug him ... a lot.

I placed my head back on Brennan's shoulder and sighed. "If you want, I won't hang out with David anymore."

Of course, that wasn't really what I wanted, and I was pretty sure that it would upset David, but for everything that Brennan had done for me, I figured he'd earned the right to jump to the head of the line when it came to friendships, so to speak.

"You know I'm not gonna ask you to do that, Grady," he said, as he gently rubbed my back. "That'd be stupid, and selfish, or something."

I had to agree, but I still would have done it if he had asked.

"But, maybe we could, like, all hang out together ... the three of us," he added.

I had to ponder that one for a minute. It certainly wasn't the ideal situation. I really liked spending time alone with David, for some reason. But, if this was the only way that I could still see him, and maintain my friendship with Brennan at the same time, then so be it.

"Okay, that's fair, I guess," I agreed, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

Brennan suddenly looked pensive. "Look, Grady, if you don't wanna do it, I'm not gonna, like, stop being your friend or anything. I dunno, I thought it was a good idea, but if you're not into it ..."

"No," I cut him off. "It's cool, really. You'll like David. He's a nice guy."

"I've already met him, remember?" Brennan reminded me. "He is a nice guy."

Brennan smiled and pulled me in for another hug. I'd really missed the lack of affection with him over the past few days. Brennan's hugs were the best, and even though I knew that boys our age weren't really supposed to hug each other, I wasn't about the give up that aspect of our friendship.

"Thanks, Grady" he whispered. "You really are my best friend."

And, with that, it was settled.

Reluctantly, I pulled away from the hug, and we went to check ourselves in the small mirror that hung on the wall in Coach's room to make sure there weren't any readily visible signs of our crying fit, we went out to tell Mr. Bellinger that we'd made up and that everything was cool. Brennan's dad knew us well, and I was sure he could tell that things were cool. I just hoped that it would last, and that our new "arrangement" for hanging out together with David would work out.

By the time we got back to our room, the rest of the team was asleep, so we quietly shucked off our clothes, changed into our pajamas, and crawled into bed. I was glad that I didn't have to face the rest of the team yet. I was still far too emotional. I needed a chance to unwind and try to process everything that had happened.

Just as I was about to drift off into the land of dreams, though, I heard my cell phone beep twice, letting me know that I'd just received a text message. Flipping my phone open, I saw that it was from Brennan. The message was simple and to the point:

I love you, Grady.

I chuckled softly to myself as I replied back, "I love you, too."


Thursday morning, I woke up feeling rested and content. Today was the semi-finals game, and although I was a little disappointed that I couldn't pitch, I was still really pumped up, and was hoping that I could at least contribute with my bat.

Tom joined me and Brennan for breakfast, so they could talk strategy for the game, since Tom was chosen to be our starting pitcher for this one. David was practicing early with his team, so he couldn't hang with us until after the day's games were finished.

Tom seemed more animated than usual, chattering away with his pre-pubescent voice and thick British accent, discussing the starting line-up for the team from Oregon, our opponents for the semi-finals. He seemed like a really chill kid, and I was glad that we finally got the chance to hang out, even if it was just to talk strategy.

After we finished eating, we got changed into our uniforms, grabbed our equipment, and made our way from The Grove down to Lamade Stadium. The weather was scorching hot, and I was covered in sweat by the time we got to our dugout. After downing several cups of lemon-lime Gatorade, I headed out to the field to warm up.

Arizona didn't really have a very good team, and had made it to the semi-finals on a lucky catch by their centerfielder in their last game, saving a homerun. It was one of the best defensive plays of the series so far, though, and the entire Grove was abuzz with the news that the play had been replayed numerous times on ESPN's "Web Gems" program.

I felt even more confident as I watched Tom warm up on the mound. He wasn't a power pitcher like me, but he had good control and could hit his spots around the plate. His fastball could reach into the high sixties, and he had a slow curve that trailed in on left-handed batters and was virtually unhittable when he threw it well.

The game went much as expected, with Tom making it through five innings before he had to be pulled due to his high pitch count. I was able to contribute with a couple of singles, batting in one run, and Brennan hit a three-run homer over the left-field fence. The final score was 8 to 1, and we were pretty fired up when we realized that we would be heading to the U.S. championship game, that much closer to playing in the World Series.

By the time we got back to The Grove, I thought I was going to collapse from heat exhaustion. The best cure for that, I figured, was to jump in the pool. The rest of the guys seemed to have the same idea, and we all headed to our room to get changed into our swimsuits. As we changed, though, I once again found my eyes drawn to the small, lithe bodies of my teammates. What was so disconcerting, though, was that while my teammates were talking about a bunch of girls, who had approached them for their autographs after the game, and how they wouldn't mind taking them out behind the stadium and feeling them up, all I could think about was how unappealing that sounded to me. I also thought that I might like trying that with someone like David ... or even Brennan. And, as those thoughts crossed my mind, it just reinforced my fear about how different from the other guys I really might be.

The pool was packed, but the water felt great. Even though several teams had already been eliminated, they were allowed to stick around and watch the rest of the tournament, and, of course, continue staying at The Grove. I was glad about that, because even if we lost in our next game, it didn't mean the fun would have to end quite yet.

David joined in horsing around with Brennan and I, and he demonstrated quite an impressive cannonball for a little guy. I must admit that I was even more impressed seeing him without a shirt on. He was thin, but had the start of a little six-pack on his tummy, and I was fascinated by his little "outie" belly button. In fact, I found myself spending quite a bit of time checking out the other boys in the pool, marveling at their smooth bodies, pert little nipples, slender hips, and bubble butts, trying to imagine what little (or not so little!) treasures might be hidden underneath those trunks.

The real stunner, though, was when I saw Tom come out to the pool. He strutted right up onto the diving board and gracefully dove in, his sleek body slipping into the water, barely making a splash. When he surfaced only a few feet from me and wiped the water away from his eyes, I felt my stomach do a few somersaults, and noticed an unmistakable bulge growing in my own shorts.

This was the first time I'd ever seen Tom without his clothes on, never having happened to be in the shower with him at the same time back at the dorm, and now, he was wearing just a skimpy Speedo that left almost nothing to the imagination.

Tom started swimming laps up and down the length of the pool, and I found myself unable to draw my eyes away from his dark, tanned skin and taut teenage muscles that seemed to ripple from head to toe with each strong stroke of his arms. Swimming had definitely done his body good. It was like art in motion. Even Michelangelo couldn't have sculpted anything so beautiful, and even my David was quickly forgotten.

"What're you staring at, dude?" I heard Brennan ask, as he swam up next to me.

Shit! Was I that noticeable? I thought to myself, cringing.

"Uhhh ... I ... uhhh ... jeez ... I," I stammered. I knew I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights, or at least what I imagined one looked like.

Brennan just gave me an odd look and swam off to start splashing David, and I watched in mild fascination as an intense water fight ensued, earning a couple of whistle blows from the lifeguard on duty, but didn't end until David was briefly pantsed by Brennan, and he got out of the pool, blushing severely.

Between my reactions when I met David, my kiss with Conner on the bus, all those naked boys in the showers back at The Grove, and now completely entranced by the angelic Tom here at the pool, I was starting to get a little worried. No, I certainly wasn't normal. Something was definitely wrong with me.

Just get through the rest of the tournament and deal with this later, Grady. Baseball comes first! I told myself.

I really needed to get my shit together. And, now that Brennan and I seemed to be cool again, I didn't need him to start freaking out because I was perving on other boys! No, I was going to focus on baseball, and this was going to pass, just like those few months when I was seven years old and I thought I wanted to grow up to be Britney Spears. Not like Britney Spears -- I actually wanted to be her. I went so far as to try on some of my mom's sluttier clothes (even though they were way too big for me), smeared make-up all over my face, and ran around the neighborhood singing, "Oops! I Did it Again" at the top of my lungs.

I shuddered at the thought.

But, that particular phase had passed, and so would this, I tried to reassure myself. I would get through this.

By the time Mr. Bellinger managed to drag us from the pool, it was already time for dinner. Again, David joined us to eat, but this time I got up the nerve to walk up to Tom and ask if he wanted to sit with us as well. In a way, I felt like somehow I wasn't being true to my friendship with David, but when he politely introduced himself to Tom and flashed me one of his sweet, shy smiles, I felt a little better. But, it certainly hadn't escaped me that that "special feeling" I'd had with David was now happening every time I looked at Tom ... and even with Rory, Conner, and Brennan. Yep, I was a mess. A royal, twelve-year-old mess.

Dinner that night was great, though. Everyone was so pumped about the game the next day, even David, whose team had just been eliminated. Rory, who was scheduled to pitch, didn't seem as nervous as he had before the last game, and I made it a point to sit by him and talk strategy, and after a few minutes, I realized that I'd been subconsciously rubbing my leg against his under the table. I really hoped he didn't notice.

By nine o'clock, we were all showered and ready for bed. Coach wanted us to get a good night's sleep, and we were pretty worn out from the day's activities, so no one complained about the early bedtime. And after catching a few brief moments alone with David and hugging him good night, which ended up producing yet another of those pesky hard-ons which I'd seemed to be getting lately, I was back to my room, tucked snuggly into bed, and out like a light.

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This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to persons living or dead are purely coincidental.

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