“Okay, Leo, see you at the pool in a few.”
I didn’t want to go to the pool. I was exhausted. But I said what Leo and the team wanted to hear. We’d won the season opener, as predicted, so some celebration was called for.
“Man, that was a good game,” I said to Alex as I closed the door to our room.
It was the typical tiny hotel room that we usually had for the away games that were too far away to get back in the same night. Two beds mostly took up the space with a single nightstand between them and, across from those, a small dresser with a TV on top. Since we didn’t have the extra roll-away in the room for a third person, we had a round table and two chairs by the window.
It was weird that Jackson wasn’t here. We’d known each other since preschool and have been best friends just about as long. We joined the Falcons as freshmen and this was the first game he’d missed. Going back through our entire hockey career together, he’d missed only a handful of games and most of those were for a broken arm when he was nine.
“Jackson’s gonna be pissed he got sick for this game. If I remember right, it’s the best season opener we’ve had.”
“And you were really on tonight,” Alex said. “I’ve never seen you play with that intensity.” Alex dropped his bag and flopped down on the nearest bed. “Four points, two of them goals. Fantastic way to start the season.”
“Did I really agree to go to the pool?” I crashed down on the other bed.
This week was a whirlwind with classes starting, plus getting ready for the game. Coach worked us for six weeks before school started and he stepped it up a notch this week.
The homework hit fast and furious, too. It wasn’t shaping up to be an easy senior year.
“Yup, I heard it,” Alex said. “You know, it’ll feel good to be in the water.”
I grunted. I was comfortable and could stay right here until tomorrow’s wake-up call. I sat up anyway, and just in time. Alex stretched and his shirt rose up, giving me a glimpse of his flat stomach and the trail of hair that ran from his bellybutton into his khakis. I knew I shouldn’t want to see that, but I never got tired of it. If only I felt that way when I caught a glimpse of some skin on Tricia. She might have been my girlfriend, but she didn’t make my heart race like Alex.
From the first time I saw him on the ice when practice started up for our junior year, I was attracted to him. There was a confidence in how he carried himself and he had a body that I couldn’t help but stare at. I saw him naked every day between the changing and the showering, but it’s not enough. I’d ignored crushes on boys before. I didn’t want to be gay. But I couldn’t ignore Alex.
Alex fell in quickly with Jackson and I, and we made a tight trio on ice and off. My feelings for Alex intensified during the summer while the team worked out for hours a day. We’d always hang out together and, while Jackson’s been my friend longer, I felt closer to Alex. There was an emptiness when he left that I didn’t experience with anyone else. In my dreams we were together, and it was good. The sexy dreams were incredible and made me glad I had my own room. Sometimes I just dreamed about simple stuff: playing hockey, going out, sitting around talking, whatever. Those were pretty awesome dreams, too.
“All right then, off to the pool it is,” I said, pulling myself out of my thoughts before they got me in trouble. “Get yourself up, let’s go.”
“I never said I was going.” Alex’s eyes were closed, arms still stretched over his head.
I pulled my T-shirt off and ruffled through my bag to find the swim shorts I’d packed. We didn’t stay at hotels with pools very often, so this was a big deal. It was a good bet the entire team would be there.
“Come on, you know it’ll feel good,” I mimicked his tone.
“Jerk, I don’t sound like that.”
I turned around in time to get hit with a pillow.
“You’ll pay for that later.”
I threw it back, hitting him in the chest.
“Umph.” Alex sat up and tossed the pillow aside. “Sure I will. You’re all talk, Roberts.”
He gave me a wink.
I got those a lot these days, and I liked them. He was a friendly guy, but as far as I could tell I was the only one he winked at. What did the winks mean? I had been trying to figure it out for months. Was he just being nice? Encouraging? I’d love to think he was flirting, but I didn’t know.
“Glad you think so. It’ll keep you off guard,” I said. “I’m sneaky and I’ll get you when you least expect it.”
I kicked off my shoes and socks, and stripped out of the pants and boxers in one movement. As I did it, so did Alex, giving me a good view of his ass. I wanted to grab it.
“You gonna call Jackson and tell him about the win?”
Alex turned as he talked, giving me a glimpse of full-frontal naked. I hurried to get my shorts on just in case I showed the wrong response.
“I texted him on the way here. No response. I didn’t want to call in case he was sleeping.” I grabbed my phone and a couple towels, tossing one to Alex. “Okay, let’s go.”
We were the latecomers to the pool party. Everyone was either in the pool or sitting around it. There were a couple of people who weren’t part of the team, but, for the most part, it was Falcons everywhere you looked. We mostly owned the space since there were twenty-five of us between players and coaches. There were a few chairs and tables scattered around the pool that was, luckily, big enough so it didn’t feel crowded. I tossed my towel and phone on a chair, and ran for the diving board. I bounced once and arced out over the water, making a decent dive.
I floated, lying on my back, and recapped the game in my head. I was thrilled with the four points, especially the goals. Alex fed me a couple of perfect passes, and I did the same for him on his goal. We found our rhythm mid-last season when Coach moved Alex to center a line with Jackson and me. This season we became the first line.
Mom was going to love this recap. We would have to do it again next week so she could see it in person. Dad wouldn’t care and probably wouldn’t even come to the first home game. There was always some reason, some something in big brother Zack’s football career that negated my hockey achievements in his eyes. Zack still held a number of school records at Central, plus a state championship, even though he graduated three years ago. This needed to be the year that I eclipsed big brother.
Jackson’s ringtone sounded from my phone. I bolted from the pool and managed to answer before voice mail kicked in.
“Hey, man, how are you feeling?”
“Ugh,” came Jackson’s reply. “Been yakking all day.”
“Oh man, still? Yikes.”
“Yeah. So, come on, gimmie the details.”
I gave him the rundown of goals and key plays. While I talked, my eyes settled on Alex sitting on the edge of the pool, legs dangling in the water. I took the moment to stare since it would be hard for anyone to know exactly what I was looking at while on the phone. Water dripped down his pecs on to his flat stomach. Suddenly I saw myself licking the droplets off him. Man, I was fixating too much tonight. I didn’t know what he was saying to forwards Aaron and Chris, but it was clear he was enjoying himself. I finished the game recap to Jackson on autopilot, but, unfortunately, I missed a question.
“Simon? Simon, are you there? I hear people in the background. Simon?”
“Um…oh…sorry.” I refocused on Jackson. “Leo was saying hello.”
“Cool, say hi back for me.”
Crap, Alex caught me looking. His eyes locked on mine. I couldn’t abruptly look away, that would be weird. Aw, there was a wink and that smile. He had this killer smile that gave me goose bumps. It shouldn’t. I knew that. I wasn’t supposed to like his smile, his winks, or to look at him wet by the pool. People would freak if they found out. I forced my attention back to Jackson in an effort to get back on track.
“I hope you’re able to get to the party tomorrow night. You should still enjoy the celebration.”
“I hope so,” Jackson said. “Right now all I can do is lay here.”
“Well, let me know the plan so I can pick you up if I need to.”
“Cool. I’m gonna go and grab more sleep, man.”
“Okay. Feel better. Call me when you’re awake tomorrow.”
“Will do. Tell everyone congrats for me.”
“You got it.”
I hung up and tossed the phone back on my towel. Alex’s eyes were still on me. His longish curly, black hair looked great wet. I wanted to run my hands through it. Instead, I got up and dove back into the pool. I desperately needed to clear my head.
Right before ten, Coach Archer told everyone to head back to their rooms and that he’d be by for a room check in a few minutes. We’d been through the drill enough to not give any grief about it.
“You wanna shower first?” Alex asked as we got in the room.
“Nah. Go ahead. I’m ordering pizza.”
“You can’t be serious.”
Alex stripped off his shorts and wrapped a towel around his waist. The few drops of water still on his skin gave him a nice shimmer in the low light.
“I’m starving. There’s no way I’ll make it until breakfast, which you know won’t be until we get home. You want in on it?”
I watched him think it through, which gave me time to look at his damp body. It was rare to see him in a state of undress for this long without the distractions of other teammates.
“Come on, it’s gonna get here and then you’ll end up eating it anyway.”
“Okay. All right. But if I have weird dreams tonight it’s your fault.”
As soon as he was done talking he headed for the bathroom and started the shower.
“I can live with that.”
I knew the dreams I’d have would have nothing to do with pizza. Despite wanting Alex out of my head, seeing so much of him today would fuel what I saw when I went to sleep.
As soon as I placed the order, I got out of the wet shorts, wrapped up in a towel, and laid back on my bed. In less than a minute there was a knock at the door. No way that could be the pizza.
I looked through the peephole and there was the coach.
“Hey, Coach.” I said as I opened the door.
“Hey, Simon. I have to say again, you played great tonight.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I think you, Alex, and Jackson are going to have a great season.”
He smiled and I knew he really meant it. I liked Coach. He was level-headed, great with strategy, knew when to be tough, but also knew when to let the team figure things out for ourselves.
“I hope so.”
I really hoped so.
Some scouts looked at me late last season and I hoped a scholarship was out there somewhere. Dad was hung up on me going to Penn like Zack. I wanted out of the state. A hockey scholarship would make that a much easier prospect.
“That you in there, Alex?” Coach yelled towards the bathroom.
“Yes, sir.” Alex peaked around the shower curtain so Coach could see him.
“I’ll see you guys bright and early. Bus leaves at 6:30 sharp. The wake-up calls are for six. Have a good night.”
“Thanks. You, too,” I said.
“Thanks, Coach,” came the yell from the bathroom.
As I closed the door, Alex turned the water turned off and stepped out. He reached for a towel and I watched the muscles across his back flex. I looked for only a couple seconds and then fell back on my bed so I wouldn’t get caught staring for a second time tonight.
“So when’s the pizza gonna be here?” he asked as he walked in to the room, drying his hair. “I got hungry in there.”
“Another ten, fifteen minutes.”
I managed to look him in the face instead of checking out other things. In the locker room it was always a race to cover up. Otherwise you’d get called out for acting like a show-off. Tonight, Alex was taking his time, and I was okay with that.
“Good. You made the right call ordering.”
“Glad you feel that way. Now weird dreams aren’t my fault.”
Alex crashed down on his bed, naked.
“You should get in the shower. Don’t want your pizza getting cold while you’re in there.”
I stood up, very aware that I was half-hard under the towel. Alex’s eyes were closed, so I took one more look. He really was the hottest guy—hotter than any guy in a band or on TV or anywhere else as far as I was concerned. If only I felt this way about Tricia.
I moved quickly for the bathroom.
Realistically, I couldn’t be gay. Gay on the hockey team wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work in school. It for sure wouldn’t work at home. I needed to get this under control. I didn’t know how, but something needed to give.
The shower relaxed me. I tried to push the image of naked Alex from my mind. I’d thought about this problem a lot over the summer. Try as I might, it was impossible to deny the feelings I had for the guy. I couldn’t get a read on how he felt.
He wasn’t dating anyone. He was constantly busy, like I was. We both had hockey and schoolwork and we were trying to be great at both.
Tricia usually understood the juggling act because she was on a similar track. She had jazz band instead of hockey. Typically, we’d go out a couple nights a week. Lately, she’d wanted more attention, especially as the school year started.
Tricia and I started going out last December. I asked her out because Jackson told me that Tricia told his girlfriend that I was cute. It was very third grade. Jackson convinced me to double date with him and Heidi. It was a good time. Tricia was fun to hang out with. We ended up a couple.
We went to junior prom in the spring. It was there, however, that it became clear that I was crushing on Alex. He brought a date, a girl who’d asked him. For me, that night was all about how Alex looked in his tux—devastatingly handsome. His dark gray tie set off his gray eyes perfectly. That’s what I remembered most about that night. A lot of the team was there and we took a group picture. The picture became my computer wallpaper so I could stare at incredibly handsome Alex anytime I wanted.
Things changed with Tricia after the prom. We still did all the same stuff, but I realized that around Alex I was excited and wanted to be around him more. I didn’t get that with Tricia. Never did.
But, gay? Really? Me? I couldn’t just ask Alex if he was. I couldn’t risk the friendship.
“Pizza’s here,” Alex called out.
It was time to put this debate away—again. Besides, I always came to the same conclusion: I couldn’t be gay.
“Great. Grab some money out of my wallet. It’s in the pocket of my khakis. I’ll be out in a sec.”
I turned off the water and stepped out. Alex was in sweatpants and T-shirt, setting up the pizza and soda on the table.
“Make sure you dry off good,” he said. “There’ll be no dripping on the pizza.”
“Yes, sir,” I said with a hint of sarcasm.
I dried off, trying to be as cool as Alex was about flashing nakedness. It wasn’t in my nature to walk around naked. But, if he could, so could I. I went to my bag, pulled on sweats, and grabbed a T-shirt. I turned around and caught him staring. We looked at each other for a few seconds before I got shy and pulled on the T-shirt to break the eye contact. His look gave me chills. I wasn’t sure if I was scared, excited, or maybe both.
“Let me at that pizza,” I said, refocusing my attention.
“Yeah,” Alex said, enthusiastically.
He opened the box and served up two slices on each plate.
“To the first win of the season,” I said, grabbing a soda, opening it, and raising the can.
“To the first win.” Alex banged his can against mine. “The first of many this year.”
The conversation stopped while we gorged on pizza.
“We clicked so well tonight,” Alex said, finally taking a pause from eating. “I wasn’t sure what would happen with Jackson out, but Aaron filled in great. More than ever I felt like I knew exactly where you were going to be on the ice.”
“Yeah. I thought so, too. Our give and go was so fluid.”
“Yup. We just gotta keep working together, making us stronger.”
“Dude,” I said, trying to not laugh, “you’ve got cheese stuck on your chin.”
Alex grabbed a napkin.
He wiped his chin, but the cheese stayed in place. He wiped again, but it only smeared worse.
I reached over and scooped the cheese off with a finger. My arm quivered as the excitement of touching him flooded over me. My brain screamed to pull away. My hand actually complied.
Alex stopped me. He grabbed my wrist and put the cheese-covered finger in his mouth.
“Oh,” I said.
It was all I could say.
He slowly sucked the cheese off my finger. My heart rate quickened. I looked into his gray eyes. The light hit perfectly and they sparkled like he had flecks of steel in them. I quietly moaned. My body shuddered, overwhelmed by the sensations. I felt everything—his hand around my wrist, his soft lips around my finger, and his tongue licking the cheese off.
Eventually, he let me pull my finger slowly from his mouth. He tongue worked on it gently until it passed his lips. I ran the still wet finger down his chin and throat.
Nothing I’d done with Tricia made me feel like this. With Alex I was nervous, excited, vibrating with energy. I liked the flutter I felt in my chest. The problem was I didn’t quite know what to do next.
Alex smiled. It wasn’t the killer smile from the pool; this was softer, sexier. I went from small shudders into full-out quaking. He must have seen it. Alex slid forward in his chair. I couldn’t stop looking into his eyes. He got closer, then kissed me.
I didn’t move, except for the involuntary shudders. He gave me another kiss, and then another, and nibbled on my lips. The nibbles were electrifying as his lips, teeth, and tongue moved across my lips.
Finally, my brain caught up with the action. I did something I’d wanted to do since prom; run my hand through his wavy hair. It was still damp from the shower and felt great—soft, smooth. I brought him closer. He took that as an invitation to keep going. His tongue parted my lips.
I suddenly felt claustrophobic. I let his head go and dropped back into my chair, feeling out of breath. My cheeks were hot. I knew I was bright red.
“Oh, shit, man. I’m sorry. I…I shouldn’t have done that.” He looked devastated. In an instant the spark left his eyes and he looked like I’d punched him in the stomach. But he did not sit back in his chair.
“No.” I shook my head for emphasis. “It’s…” I took a deep breath. I wanted his lips back on mine. “It’s okay.” I leaned forward, taking the lead this time. I quickly got our tongues back together.
Alex ran his hand down my arm. As he crossed from the fabric of the shirt to my bare arm, I moaned at the sensation of his skin against mine. My brain was in overdrive. This needed to stop…I had a girlfriend…These kisses were amazing…His lips were incredible…I couldn’t be gay…I didn’t know he was…Look at his eyes, so gorgeous…He felt so good.
We kissed urgently, aggressively, exploring each other. Time seemed to speed up and, also, stop. Alex eventually broke the kiss and we ended up touching noses.
“Hi,” he said softly.
“Hi.” I paused to breath. “Wow.”
“Yeah.” He kissed me again, so lightly and gently. “I’ve wanted that for so long. It was better than I’d ever imagined.”
He nodded. “Yup. Since we met I’ve been trying to decide if there was something between us. For a second there I thought I’d really messed up.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Don’t apologize. It’s…”
“But, the look on your face was awful.”
“I didn’t want to mess up our friendship or our team work.”
I reached out and ran my hand down the back of his head, touching his hair again.
“You didn’t mess up anything.”
I kissed him softly a couple times. Leaning my forehead against his, I kept my hand on the back of his head and spoke quietly.
“I’ve been wanting you. You’ve no idea.”
There, I said it. I think it was as much for me as it was him.
We stayed forehead-to-forehead, looking at each other, until a rumble from Alex’s stomach broke the quiet.
“Whoa,” he said, as he put a hand on his stomach.
“I think that’s our cue to get back to the pizza,” I said.
I kissed him one more time before we separated. We each grabbed another slice and devoured it quickly.
“So you’re, um…”
I didn’t know if I wanted to say the word.
“I am,” he said between bites of another slice.
He made it seem like the easiest thing in the world to say.
“I think I am, too.”
I couldn’t meet his gaze, so I focused on my pizza. There were major consequences to those words.
“You don’t have to say that just because we kissed.”
“I think it’s time I admit it to myself,” I said, looking at him again. “The way I’ve thought about you the past year. The way your kisses made me feel.”
He winked at me as he took a drink of soda and we attacked the pizza again.
“What are you thinking?” he asked once the pizza was gone. “I can practically see the wheels turning in your head.”
“Way too much.”
Forming coherent sentences proved difficult. He was content to sit there and wait, not looking phased by the pause.
“I never thought this would happen. I never thought we’d kiss. I don’t know what it means. I’ve got a girlfriend who, I guess, I’ve been lying to. What if the team finds out? And my parents? They’d freak. But…wow.”
My face got hot again as I thought about how great all of this was, even with the problems it might cause. I knew I had a goofy grin on my face.
“I’d like to kiss you some more,” I said.
“Sounds good to me.”
He leaned over my chair, bracing himself as he moved in for the kiss. His arms were taunt with his biceps bulging under his T-shirt.
“I’ll kiss you anytime.”
He dropped to my mouth and I dissolved into his kiss. My hands ran over his arms. The muscles felt good, strong. I held them tight, lifting myself to meet his kiss, getting his tongue deeper in my mouth. As my hands were checking him out, I gave him a bit of a massage at the same time.
“Umph,” Alex grunted through a kiss.
I broke the kiss.
“My shoulder’s a little tweaked from that hit I took in the second.”
He stayed hovering over me.
“Ah. Maybe I could help with that?”
I used one hand to knead the flesh around his right shoulder. He was full of knots.
“Oh, that’s good,” he spoke and moaned at the same time, stretching “good” out by several syllables.
“Come on, lay down. Let’s see if I can loosen that up.”
He laid down on the bed while I knelt next to him. I gently worked his shoulder, trying to soften the kinks. Working his muscles was awesome. The moans told me I was doing a good job.
“One second,” Alex said. He sat up and took off his shirt.
“Now you can really dig in.”
Wow. Watching his lean muscles move as he pulled the shirt off made me light-headed. It was one thing seeing him across the room; it was another being up close. He tossed the shirt to the floor and got back into position. I expanded the massage from the shoulder to his entire back, running my hands down his spine to the waist of his sweats and then back up to his shoulders. He relaxed under my touch.
“That’s perfect,” he said.
I concentrated again on his shoulder. My senses were near overload, and I had the bulge in my sweats to prove it.
“Glad you like it.”
I kept the massage changing, going from deep to something closer to a caress and back again.
Alex turned over suddenly. The smooth pecs and flat stomach I’d admired and fantasized about so often were right in front of me. He took one of my hands and placed it on his chest.
“If I’d known what a good masseuse you were, I’d have kissed you months ago.”
My face warmed as the color rose in my cheeks yet again.
“You’re so cute when you blush.”
That only made me redder.
“No fair making it worse. That’s evil.”
I tried to look annoyed, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“Yup,” he laughed.
“Jerk.” I punched him playfully in the chest.
He winked at me, which, of course, was perfect. He pulled me down next to him and kissed me on the cheek.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“My mind is racing. But this is fantastic.” I nibbled on his shoulder as I spoke. “What about you?”
“I’m excellent.” He kissed my nose.
“So have you ever kissed a teammate over pizza before?”
It was time to find out more about Alex.
His furrowed brow indicated there was a story there.
“I had a boyfriend in Boston. He played for a rival team.”
I didn’t expect that answer.
“We met at hockey camp two summers ago. We shared a dorm room and, during that month, we got to know each other. We hung out as much as we could when we got home, but he had a mean streak and I broke up with him.”
“So you were out before you moved here?”
“Not completely. I’m out to my parents. They knew I was seeing Justin. I didn’t tell any of my friends at the time. Once I moved here I told a couple close friends, but not about Justin. I’d rather leave him in the past.”
“I can’t imagine telling anyone. I know people come out all the time, but…I don’t know. I think you’re the only gay guy I know, at least the only I guy I know who’s gay. How’d your parents take it?”
“They were cool. They suspected since I never talked about girls,” he said with a chuckle. “Well, I wasn’t talking about boys either, but they said the lack of girl talk was their first clue.”
I ran my hand gently over Alex’s chest and stomach as he talked.
“And what about you, Mr. Roberts? Anyone in your past besides Tricia?”
“Nope. She’s it. You’ve seen that relationship from its start.” He nodded. “It’s been strained lately. I know I’ve gotten more distant from her because…well…I’m just going to say this. I think about you way too much. You’re a great friend, a great teammate. But I have dreams about you that I don’t have about anyone else.”
“It’s awesome to hear you say that. Um…can we get your shirt off?”
I sat up and pulled my shirt off. His hands were on me right away, running over my hairy chest; such a contrast to his smooth body. His touch was electrifying. He seemed intent on touching every hair and it felt incredible—sort of a tickle mixed with a caress. Without warning, Alex ran a hand over the bulge in my sweats. I shuddered as every nerve in my body reacted. Alex was hard, too. The outline was clearly visible. With all the other sensations, my anxiety came to the forefront again. Things were moving very fast. I tensed up before I could stop myself.
“We should slow up a bit, shouldn’t we?”
He pulled me down so I was on top of him. We kissed gently.
“It’s okay.” I dropped my voice to barely above a whisper. “Tricia and I’ve never…I mean, we’ve kissed, but…”
“I get it. It’s all good. Really. There’s no rush.”
He hugged me close. Wrapped in his strong arms was a great place to be.
“I…I’m sorry I haven’t done more.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He yawned in the middle of talking. “Damn. Sorry about that.”
He blinked a few times trying to knock the sleepiness back. I couldn’t blame him; I was wiped out, too. I still teased him about it.
“It’s okay,” I said, sounding very melodramatic. “You’ve gotten bored with me already. I’ll just go.”
I rolled away to get up when he pulled me back.
He showed me how funny with another kiss.
“I suppose we should get some sleep. You want to sleep here, with me?”
“I’d like that.”
Alex turned off the light next to the bed. We snuggled together, his arm across my chest.
“You okay if I’m close like this?”
“I’ve never slept this close to anyone, but it feels good, so you can stay right there.”
“Cool.” He kissed my shoulder. “Night.”
“Good night.” I picked up his hand, kissed it, and fell asleep holding it.
# # #