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Roger was beat. His first pro game! Okay, admittedly, preseason, and he’d been put in for the second half. And since the rest of the guys in the line were also mostly rookies like himself, rotated in and out for the coaches to see their chops, he hadn’t been able to throw a successful pass. He didn’t know them, they didn’t know him, their rhythms were off.
“Let me run a couple plays,” he pleaded with his coach. “I want to move the ball.”
Tacitus DaMarcus looked at him with kind but firm eyes. “Son, this is the preseason. I don’t want you getting tackled in the preseason. Understand? This is not the time to risk getting hurt.”
Roger nodded, the disappointment in his eyes plain to see.
DaMarcus put a hand on his shoulder. “Look. You’re not going anywhere. I know what you can do. You have a long and excellent career ahead of you. Your body’s gonna get broken up soon enough. Okay?”
Roger laughed. “Okay, Coach.”
“This is about nerves. Getting you guys out on the field in a pro game, getting that over with. So that by the time it counts, you’re used to it. Got it?”
“Yes, sir. Thanks.”
And he had to admit to himself later, flat on his bed, that it had been exhausting enough, the nerves, the excitement, the difference between playing in college and playing in the pros. The hugeness of the experience was something he couldn’t put his finger on. Maybe guys from SEC teams, with their mega stadiums and constant national TV coverage, didn’t feel this way when they went pro.
He finally had the strength to get up and check his phone. He smiled when he saw the text from Brian. Saw u on TV, superstar. Waited all day.
Ya I was on for a minute, Roger texted back.
Yeah, for a minute in the N Fuckin L. WTF is wrong with them why didn’t u start.
Haha. You know who the starter is.
It was funny as hell when you thought about it. For years, Roger had been parked behind Antoine Phoenix as the backup QB at CSB. And now…here they were again, same situation.
Phoenix had grabbed him in a bear hug when they’d met at camp. “Known quantity, all right, my man. You gonna take my job again?” he asked, half kidding, half serious. It was the pros, dog eat dog, and Roger was, if not a heartbeat away, certainly an ACL tear away from becoming the starter.
“In time,” Roger smiled. “Same as last time.”
Antoine kept his smile on, but it was an effort. “Right, right.” He knew damn well that Roger wanted his job. In college, you waited for it. In the pros, you took it.
Roger started to text, I love you, I miss you. But then he backspaced furiously. He’d read too many stories about texts falling into the wrong hands. It killed him to do it, it shocked him how badly it hurt to literally erase his feelings.
Fuck it. I miss you, he sent. Let ‘em make hash of that if they want.
Back at u, Brian returned immediately.
Then the phone rang – Brian calling. “Hey,” Roger said.
“I’m so horny,” Brian’s voice tongued his ear.
“What are you wearing?”
“My jockstrap,” Roger lied. “That’s it.” In truth, he was in his sweats and a t-shirt, but how sexy was that?
“Fuck. I can see your ass right now.”
“Yeah, it’s regrown its hymen.”
Brian roared. “You need me to come bust that shit open again? Take your little rosebud?”
Brian’s voice sobered. “Dude. Seriously, this is killing me. I have got to fucking put it in you or I’m gonna lose it.”
“I know. But…” But what? Roger thought. This week Brian was in Tacoma, Washington. And Roger was in Tennessee for a preseason game. Then he’d be in Arizona, when Brian would be in Fresno. Then he’d be in New York, the best possible place for them to reunite…and Brian would be in Utah.
The thought came to him, horrible and wonderful. I’m being so selfish¸ he thought. If I loved him, I would give him this. The thought was unbearable, and that’s why it was so perfect. Why it would mean so much to do it. Roger was built for sacrifice, wired for delayed gratification, and he knew Brian wasn’t. It was killing his lover, his friend, this waiting, this frustration.
“You should go fuck someone.”
“Go out and get laid.”
“You’re shitting me.”
Roger smiled sadly. Brian hadn’t said no, no way. He couldn’t believe the offer could be real.
“Yeah. But it has to be a girl. And you have to tell me all about it.”
Dead silence on the other end of the line. “I…”
“I know,” Roger said. “But I know you, Brian. You know when we can get together, if then? Your season ends in September. Mine starts then. We’re on the schedule for one of the Thanksgiving games, so we’re talking Christmas before we see each other.”
“You would really want to hear about that?”
NO, Roger thought. That is the last thing I’d ever want to hear about. “Yeah, man. Fuck her in the ass like you fuck me.”
Brian laughed, astonished. “You’re a fucking perv.”
“You knew that already. Make her take a video,” he said, a tear forming in his eye. “Make her film you fucking her. And send it to me.” And I’ll delete it, unseen.
“I…I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes. I can’t sleep at night, thinking that you’re going crazy not getting laid.”
“I am going crazy,” Brian admitted. “Jeremy’s complaining because I spend so long in the shower every night, jerking off three times.”
Roger laughed. “Yeah, that could be inconvenient. Seriously. Go on, do it.”
“What about you? Are you gonna…” Brian laughed. “No, you’re not. You’re gonna be the self-sacrificing one. You’re gonna pass the marshmallow test.”
I only want one thing, Brian, your cock, no one else’s. I can wait forever for that. “Yeah, and you’re not. I know you, buddy. And it’s fine. As long as it’s a girl.”
Silence. “No, man. I’m not gonna do that.”
Roger repressed his sigh of relief. “Okay. Well, the offer’s there. I know how hard this is.”
“Christmas, dude. Okay? In Santa Vera, so we can be with your dad. But in a hotel. Hot fucking monkey sex all weekend long.”
Christmas is a Friday this year, Roger thought. He’d be lucky to get the day off, with a game on Sunday. “Yeah, man. All weekend long.”
Brian hung up the phone. “What?” he said, looking at Jeremy looking at him. His roommate had rolled his eyes through the whole conversation, unfazed by any of it. Brian had been shameless, talking about rebreaking Roger’s hymen in front of him, but then, Jeremy had made Brian listen to far worse phone conversations with his own playmates.
Jeremy shook his head. “You don’t get it, do you?”
Jeremy sighed impatiently. “He wants you to get laid. But he wants you to say you won’t. So he never knows about it.”
“He said he wanted the details.”
“Right, sure he does. Dude’s kinky but come on. He’s still Dudley fucking Do Right.”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“Yeah you are. Come on. We’re going out right now before you can change your mind.”
Brian laughed. “You’re the devil.”
Like Roger, Jeremy knew what Brian didn’t say was as important as what he did. And “you’re the devil” didn’t mean no.
“Come on,” Jeremy said, wagging a finger and smirking. “Just one drink.”
So it went like this. They went to a bar. Brian had a drink. Jeremy nudged him. “Sluts,” he indicated. Big hair, lots of makeup, navels exposed and ready to be filled with tequila shots.
“Whatever,” Brian said. He wasn’t going to cheat on Roger. He had another drink. He wasn’t going to cheat on Roger. Well, not with those sluts.
Jeremy went and joined the group of alleged sluts. Brian had another drink. His reaction time slowed. He looked at one of the girls, who was looking back, and he couldn’t look away as fast as he’d intended. She took it as an invitation.
“Hey, Jeremy says you’re a ball player too.”
And so it goes. He got back to their room at 3 am, and woke up at 6 with a splitting headache, lights on, TV babbling, and Jeremy making it worse by whistling a happy tune as he dressed.
“Please stop,” Brian groaned.
“Come on, cold shower, and one of these to fix you up.”
Brian blindly took the pill in Jeremy’s hand, presumably an aspirin. He fumbled for his bedside glass of water and knocked it back.
“Shower time. We have a workout at 7.”
Fuck, Brian thought. Fucking Tacoma, Washington. Dark and cold and damp in August. Well, it would wake him up. He got into the shower.
By the time he got out, he felt pretty good, actually. By the time he got dressed, he felt fucking great. By the time they left the room, he finally thought to ask Jeremy, “That pill wasn’t an aspirin, was it?”
“What do you think?”
“Yep yep, Johnny Depp, gold star for you.”
“If I have to take a drug test, I’m gonna kill you.”
Jeremy waved it away. “They need reasonable cause to do a drug test. Don’t act crazy. Don’t fuck up.”
“Thanks for that,” Brian said, wanting to be angry. But… Fuck! This was better than the DMAA. “What is it?”
“Adderall. Don’t worry, it’s out of your system in 48 hours. Drink lots of water.”
Then…batting practice! Brian wasn’t cold. Wasn’t sick. Wasn’t tired. Hit ball after ball after ball out of the park. A crowd gathered.
Coach Mathis watched him. Made notes. “Nice day today,” he said to Brian as he passed him on his way to the dugout.
That made Brian even warmer. He’d managed to land another fairly cold fish as a coach in Mathis, a man so grudging with his praise that “nice day today” was pretty much his equivalent of an MVP award.
“Thanks, Coach,” Brian said, grinning from ear to ear. He needed the praise, he knew he did by now, knew it was all about his fucking dad, but still. He needed it, and it felt…great. EVERYTHING WAS GREAT TODAY! IT’S A GREAT DAY! I LOVE MY LIFE!
“Nice day again tomorrow,” Mathis appended, asking and demanding it of him.
“Definitely, Coach,” Brian said. “Whatever it takes.”
Only later did he remember the previous night. Fucking that girl, with his eyes closed, fucking her in the ass the way Roger told him to… Trying not to listen to her voice, trying to pretend he wasn’t with her, that he was fucking Roger… Fucking harder and harder to block out the noise, the noise inside his head that said what are you doing!
He crashed hard that night, slept a solid eight hours, having burned the pill off on the field.
The next morning, Jeremy looked at him. Raised an eyebrow. Brian nodded.
“Five bucks,” Jeremy said, his hand still out after Brian took the pill from it. “This ain’t a charity I’m running here.”
Brain laughed. What the fuck, right? He had plenty of money.
“Or I could just sell you a bottle.”
“No, no. I’m not going there, man. Just one today, that’s all I need.”
Jeremy chuckled. “Sure, man. One potato chip. You got it.”
“Fuck you,” Brian laughed. He couldn’t wait for the Adderall to kick in. Couldn’t wait to feel as great as he had yesterday.
For a flickering moment later that day, he realized he hadn’t thought of Roger all morning. But that’s fine. No more fucking around, he said to himself, and meant it. After all, who needs that when you can feel like this?