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--- Chapter 10 ---
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I had just gotten out of the shower and was drying myself off. I could hear stilted conversation coming from our room and figured that Carl had arrived and that Dodger was talking to him. I guess that I had never thought of those two as having known one another because Dodger had transferred to our school, and if he had known Carl it could only have been for a couple of months. I hoped they didn't get in a fight because it occurred to me that if anything Dodger would be thinking Carl was after me and he would probably be trying to mess that up. Not that it mattered.

I looked in the mirror at my hair. Wet like it was it appeared to be totally black but it really wasn't; it was just dark brown. It was good hair and I knew that once I dried it it would fall pretty much as I wanted it. I pushed my lips back and studied my teeth for a moment and then grabbed my tooth brush and gave em a once over. Then tipped up a bottle of mouthwash, took a gulp and swirled it around. I stared at myself with my mouth full of mouthwash. "You're not gonna kiss him ya know. Just put that shit totally outta your head." Why was I even thinking crap like that?

With Carl sitting in the next room waiting for me my fears had multiplied exponentially and they weren't just about what Carl might do to me. On the one hand there was the warm friendly supportive Carl, my defender, and on the other hand was the guy who raped me and beat the holy crap out of Jay. But at least with what he did do Jay Carl was defending me, and it's no doubt a damn good thing that he did. On the other hand the rape was something else. It had scared me and had taken the way that I thought about someone and turned those thoughts on their head. How could I ever be alone with a guy who could change like that? What if it happened again?

Then there was the thing that Addie and I had spent a lot of time on, not just how I logically thought about what Carl did but what my subconscious mind thought about it. Putting aside the fear, it was after all, just a fuck. Carl never hit me; he fucked me and some part of my brain was tryin to do the wave while that was happening. When Addie first talked about that I thought that she was the one who was crazy but the more I thought about it, and how my body felt at the time, I eventually decided that maybe she was onto something.

I pulled on a pale blue button down long sleeve shirt and turned the cuffs up a couple of times then pulled on my jeans. I was walking out into the bedroom while I was buttoning up the shirt. Carl was sitting on my bed and looked up at me with brilliant blue eyes that seemed so sad. Dodger was standing over by the window with the hint of an evil grin on his face. There was a strange silence that seemed like it couldn't be filled with just words.

I said, "You guys introduce yourselves?"

Carl nodded yes and Dodger said, "We knew each other from before." I couldn't imagine what Dodger had been telling him but it dawned on me that I shouldn't have left them alone.

I finished buttoning my shirt and said to Carl. "You ready to go?"

He got a relieved look and his face and stood up. From the window and without looking at us Dodger said, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

As we were walking down the stairs in the dorm Carl said, "Danny, I didn't realize that I'd be interrupting something so if you wanna just make this a quick meal that's cool."

I looked up at him and said, "Interrupting? Carl, what did Dodger say to you?" I held up my hand. "Wait...I shouldn't be asking you that and it doesn't matter and I won't ask you to repeat it." I sighed because I was irritated at having to explain this. "Dodger wants to get something going with me. The problem is that he doesn't think he should also have to give up his girlfriend, so there been some tension between us."

We walked out the front door and Carl steered me along the sidewalk to where his car was parked. He unlocked the car doors and just as I was about to get in on the passenger side Carl leaned on the roof of the car and said with a strained smile, "So you're sure you're not in love with him?"

"Is that what he said?"

He kind of nodded. "Not exactly, but that's what he was implying."

We both got into the car and Carl started the engine. I said, "When Dodger and I were still back home I thought that maybe something might happen when we got here but then I met a friend of his, his name's Mike and he and I had a thing for a little while. It wasn't a love thing, just a sex thing. But Dodger got Mike to stop seeing me." I said, "They're teammates," like that explained it and in my mind it pretty much did.

All this while I had been kind of watching myself like part of my brain was a TV camera or something and was seeing things from a different perspective and I kept waiting for me to feel afraid of Carl, and when I looked at him hard in the car while he was driving I realized that I wasn't afraid of him. I just didn't fear that he was going to physically hurt me. The Carl that I was looking at was the old Carl, the Carl who was my good friend and I just didn't feel like I had to be afraid of him. I tried to bring up the feelings that I had when he was raping me but they just didn't jibe with the person that I was sitting next to, like I was thinking about two different people. That didn't mean that there wasn't still a lot of psychological damage and it didn't mean I was ready to forgive him, but that realization made me feel a little better and maybe a little odd.

That also made me wonder if I hadn't made a mistake in avoiding Carl after all that happened. In the car afterwards he apologized and said that we'd talk later and maybe that would have been the best thing to do. Maybe if we had talked about it a lot of what I went through after that could have been avoided, but of course that didn't happen.

The restaurant was a small Italian place that was set well back from the road. The parking lot was almost full when we pulled into it. Carl got out of the car and started walking towards the building almost like he was in a daze. Suddenly he stopped and looked back at me like he was just remembering that I was with him and he smiled broadly. It was the first time since I had talked to him at football practice that I saw him smile.

He shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans as his shoulders bunched up and his blue eyes flashed. He said softly, "Doin okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good." He put his hand lightly on middle of my back as he guided me into the restaurant.

He gave his name to the waiter who approached us and we were escorted to a secluded corner booth. As we settled in I looked around the booth and then looked at him and raised my eyes.

"A friend of my dad owns the place. I figure this would give us a little privacy. Food's pretty good too."

It's pretty weird when someone as big and strong and dynamic as Carl is sitting quietly and trying to look non-threatening. I was certain that's what he was trying to do. He was trying not to spook me but I figured that if it went on like this we weren't getting any place.

"It's very private."

"It's not makin ya uncomfortable is it?"

I looked up into his eyes. "Carl, I'm not gonna break. And frankly I feel a lot more comfortable than I ever thought I would so just relax will ya?" I started to say, "I know you're not gonna try and rape me," but figured that might be going too far.

He grinned and said quietly, "Okay."

"Why don't you tell me about football." I figured he could relax with that. "What was that like when you got to college?"

And for the next forty-five minutes that's what he did. Actually I didn't get a whole lot of it. Not because I don't know anything about football, but because I was watching Carl's body. His body is so beautiful to watch. But finally after we finished eating and were sipping coffee I knew that if I didn't start it, it might not start, so I said, "Tell me what happened that day, Carl. It was so not like you."

Carl stared down into his coffee and said, "This is hard to tell you, it's hard to say it. Aaand," He drew the word out, "the more that I think about it there's no way that I'm gonna come out okay on this." He looked up at me and gave me a grim smile. "Sometimes...sometimes maybe we're better off just staying with our dreams...cause in those, you end up saying the stuff I want to hear." I could feel my heart beating against the wall of my chest when he stopped talking for a moment.

He talked slowly and quietly, only occasionally looking up at me.

"I'm not sure that I really knew it, but I fell in love with you the first day that we met; the day you ran past me on the track. I told myself that it was just..I a crush...that I was really straight and I was just attracted to you because of your looks...and the sex." He gave me a lopsided grin. "I guess that sounds stupid." He held up an open hand like he was going to grab the side of his head. "But this big huge part of my brain knew better. It was like screaming, "You're gay, you're gay and you love Danny!" His eyes met mine for a zillionth of a second and then he looked down again at his coffee. "I wasn't dealing well with that." His finger was tracing designs on the side of the coffee cup. "The thing is that I'm usually pretty controlled. Even as a little kid I'd get a thing in my head that I wanted to do and I'd stay focused. So there, in high school, I was even more controlled. I wanted to play ball, get into a good college, become a lawyer and have a nice family." He shrugged. "It seemed doable." He mumbled, "It seemed normal." His eyes looked up into mine and I felt my cock lurch and I almost gasped. "I never figured on you, Danny, on the affect you'd have on me."

"When you first brought up the whole idea that I'd be leaving to go to college and you'd be alone, I was devastated. I hadn't allowed myself to think that far ahead, at least where you were concerned. But then I figured that this was maybe a good thing, you know, like in disguise. I got to thinking maybe I could stop this addiction that I had for you...kind of a little at a time. I figured that if you started seeing other people that I'd just kinda naturally go my girlfriend." He sighed and rubbed his eyes then shook his head slowly. "It sure didn't have that affect. All that I could think about was you and Jay together. Nothing has ever gotten to me like that did. I started playing ball even harder, but then the coach stopped me and said that I couldn't keep doing that, that we weren't gladiators that we were high school kids......but nothing helped....all that I thought about was you and Jay."

"So all this time, in the locker room, I'm getting these looks from Jay, these smug little looks. I try to ignore them but then he starts making comments." Carl glanced up at me for a second. I saw a hint in his eyes of the anger I saw that night, and I didn't know whether to be afraid or comforted. "Comments about you, crude, mean shit. So I remind him that he promised not to hurt you but he just laughs about it. He tells me that you love it and that I should mind my own business. I warn him again and we get into this huge fucking argument; it starts in the locker room after everyone else has left and ends up with us screaming at each other out in the parking lot....but it never came to blows." He shakes his head slowly. "I wanted so bad to take his fucking head off."

I could feel Carl moving his legs under the table and one ends up brushing against mine. He looks up and says, "Sorry." He moves it away but I move my leg with it because I've suddenly got this need to be touching him.

"I knew...obviously...that you were meeting him that night. When you were...getting together...with him it made me nuts and I did all kinds of shit not to think about it. That night I had to get out of the house. My mom and dad were beginning to wonder what my problem was and I knew if I stayed around...I knew I wouldn't be able to control what I was feeling. So I went downtown to eat and just be around people. And I was doing that; I was minding my own business, just sitting in Denny's. Jay and his friends came in but I figured there's no way that he'll sit near me because of all the shit that happened earlier, but he does; he goes out of his way to sit at the next booth, asks the hostess to sit them there. The fucker deliberately asks for it!" He rubbed the side of his face with his hand. "Maybe if the place had been busier or something...he wouldn't have been able to talk like he did." He shook his head. "Doesn't matter, he did what he did. He and his friends started talking about it, about you, fucking bragging about it, about how they left you."

Suddenly Carl grabbed my hand and his voice cracked. "I tried, Danny! I tried not to hurt em. I even got up and left but the asshole followed me out to the parking lot, fucking taunting me about it, and we had the same argument all over again. I told him I was going to his place and untie you or take that shit off of you, whatever. That was the most important thing to me, but I also wanted to kill him. I did; I wanted to kill him. I didn't think he'd follow me. I figured he'd just let me do it because he knew how mad I was....But he didn't; he followed me. Then in the parking lot at his place we got into a huge fight. And that time it did come to blows."

Carl was still holding my hand. "I went insane, Danny! I kept thinking that you were gonna be so pissed at me. Okay...also this part of me...wanted to show Jay that you were mine, that you really loved me... and his words........the way that he said you felt about that stuff got to me. That shit about you loving it...I couldn't believe it, but yet at the same time I figured that it must be true. I dunno why...I guess just cause that asshole said it. That sounds stupid, but it wasn't my most lucid night."

Carl's huge fingers were massaging my hand. "So I was like, desperate! I was so afraid that I'd fucked things up and somehow...and god how I wish I could take it back, but somehow I figured that if you liked it when Jay did it then I'd do what you liked. If you wanted rough sex, then I could do that; I'd do anything it took..." Carl's head was slumped down but his hand still held mine. "But in the middle of it, when I looked into your eyes..." His voice caught for a second. "I knew that I'd fucked up worse than I ever figured I could. I knew I'd lost you. In the car....on the way to your house I just wanted to pull take you in my arms, but you had already gotten this shell around you. I knew that I disgusted you. I could see it in your eyes. It was like I died. I saw you sinking and I didn't know how to make it stop and then it just all ended, my life, everything."

"The rest of the time there, in that school, was like a bad dream. I was still near you but I couldn't face you. I couldn't touch you; I couldn't even talk to you. When I finally went away to college it seemed better somehow. At least there was separation, distance. I didn't have to see you and feel all that guilt. But there still wasn't a day when I didn't think about you, and then at night it would all come back. I'd be lying in bed trying to sleep and it'd all wash over me, that terrible sense of loss." He squeezed my hand tighter and looked up at me. "And I'd heard from people that I know, at the high school....that you were hurting because of what I did. Not that they knew about that, cause they didn't, but they said you had changed. At least I figured that was the reason."

"I started coming home for your track meets." He got a faraway look in his eyes like he was picturing it, "I'd cut classes and drive like a son-of-a-bitch to get home and watch you run, I guess to make sure you were okay and to just see you. Then I'd drive back." He laughed and looked up at me. "It's a hell of a drive."

He spread his hands palm down on the table and got a determined look on his face. " for the really hard part." He spoke quietly but intensely. "I finally decided that I had to try and be with you. I already knew that I wanted it more than anything else, more than football, more than being a lawyer or having a family or anything. But most of all, I want your forgiveness-- even though I know I don't deserve it. I also want you to be okay... to not be in pain because of what I did. I love you, Danny and it's not going away; it's never gone away and it just keeps getting bigger stronger. I love you and I need you and I want you. But I know that that's probably not gonna happen"

We sat there without talking for a moment and then Carl reached across the table slowly with both hands and gently pushed the tears from my cheeks with his thumbs. He said softly, "You're crying."

I shook my head because I didn't think that I was crying. Then I said, "Yes. I mean to what you said before. I forgive you and I love you too and I want us to be together. At least I think so. Is it okay if we try it a little bit at a time? I mean I've been kinda screwed up and ......"

I never got a chance to finish the sentence because Carl slid around to my side of the booth too quickly and then I was like buried in his arms as he enveloped me and his mouth closed on mine. I melted into his strong arms and knew I was where I wanted to be.

And they lived happily ever after.

The End

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