Wednesday Briefs: Second Shot – The Senior Year – 18
Blake stopped outside the restaurant door, heart racing. He didn’t know how long they stood there, but it had been long enough for the late August humidity to make him start to sweat.
“We don’t have to do this.” Ethan’s voice reminded Blake he didn’t come alone. “At least not today.”
“No.” Compared to what Jason and Peter did to keep their relationship a secret at first, he and Ethan had it easy. And it still sucked. “It’s time. Enough know already that even if I don’t say anything, most will find out sooner or later. At least this way, we can do more things. No more hiding.”
“Not that I mind the things we do when hiding, but I understand.” Ethan slipped his hand into Blake’s. Wiggling a bit he entwined their fingers and squeezed. When Blake felt him start to pull back he tightened his grip. “I’m proud of you, Blake. I’ve been out long enough that sometimes it’s hard to remember how it felt when I did it.”
“Shall we?” He nodded toward the door.
“Like this?” Ethan sounded mildly amused.
“Yeah, why not?” He hadn’t really figured out how he would tell everyone, but this seemed perfect. “I wasn’t sure I could make a speech, but holding hands will do all the talking necessary.”
The smirk turned into a smile – the wide, take up the whole face and make Ethan’s eyes crinkle – kind that made Blake’s heart beat just a tiny bit faster. “It’s got a certain style. And you know how I abhor common things.”
Ethan waggled his eyebrows, making Blake laugh. His angst ebbed just enough for him to feel like he could move his feet again. “Thanks.”
He knew without Ethan, he’d chicken out. But together, he felt bolder, stronger, and more confident to face the issue. That Ethan took a day off work to come a day early only fueled his resolve. For them to be equals, Blake needed to have the same level of commitment to Ethan. And that meant not asking him to hide who he was anymore.
Exhaling loudly, he never took his gaze off the wooden door. “Okay. Let’s go in before dinner is over.”
His sweaty hand nearly slid off the handle, but Blake managed to get the door open. The smell of ‘bar food’ hit his nose, making his stomach do flips. Anything he ate right now had the risk of coming right back up and the aroma of burgers and fries didn’t help.
Voices, laughter and the thump of bass from the sound system filled the small spaces as they entered the restaurant. The hostess, an older woman with her blonde hair pulled back in a bun, chewed her gum loudly as she eyed them up and down.
“Table for two?”
“Um…no, we’re with a group.” Blake resisted with everything he had releasing Ethan’s hand when she focused her eyes on their joined hands. “The soccer team?”
“Back that way and to the left.” She nodded down the dark paneled hall toward an open door where most of the noise seemed to come from.
Blake heard Ethan’s voice, but didn’t say anything.
“I can do this.” He whispered, silently repeating it with every step. Ethan tightened his grip around Blake’s fingers. “Breathe.”
He forced a smile he didn’t quite feel. “Right.”
Crossing the threshold, Blake felt his body tingle. He almost checked to see if they’d crossed some kind of field you only saw on Star Trek, but he knew it was his imagination. His eyes scanned the room for Darryl and Jason, trying not to look at his other teammates.
At first everyone ignored him and Ethan, too wrapped up in whatever they were doing. But as soon as the first set of eyes looked their way, heads started to turn. Later when he’d had time to reflect, he’d remember the shocked expressions on a few faces, a couple smiles, but no angry glares. Not that he’d been looking for trouble, but he figured it best to know the room.
Ethan tugged him gently forward. “They’re down there.”
Jason smiled then turned to Peter – Peter? He never came to team dinners. Dean stood up, blocking Blake’s view of his captain.
“Why am I not surprised?” Dean smirked, his eyes moving from their hands to Ethan.
“Whoa there, little D. This–” he raised their hands slightly, “–was Blake’s idea.”
Dean squinted and glared at Ethan for a second, then turned to Blake. “Mind if I thump your boyfriend?”
Boyfriend? He and Ethan had never talked about their status like that. But it felt like the right word. “Um, no, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t, Dean.”
“Fine.” He shrugged, a lock of blond hair sweeping down across his forehead. “But if he calls me that again, I can’t promise I won’t.”
Blake let out a nervous laugh. “I’ll make sure he plays nice.”
When they moved toward a pair of vacant seats, Jason shook his head. Before he could speak Ethan waved his hand at their friend. “Don’t you start too. This was his idea. Said it was better than a speech.”
Blake finally let go of Ethan’s hand and despite his whole body shaking, he managed to sit down without breaking anything. “I heard someone else called a team meeting to come out. Since that’d been done, I figured I’d try something new.”
“Thank God. Fewer speeches.” Dean said. He reached across the table for a plate of wings, but Eric snatched it back at the last second.
“No way, Tellermooch You ate yours.” Eric grabbed one and took a big bite. “Get your big bro to buy you some more, little D.”
The table laughed as Dean sat back and folded his arms on his chest.
Blake ignored the laughter and comments, scanning the tables for his teammates’ reactions. Most ignored him, having returned to their conversation. A couple of freshman stole glances his way as they talked and everyone else seemed caught up in Dean and Eric’s antics.
Blake started to relax when a hand landed on his shoulder.
“So.” Matt’s deep voice drew all eyes in Blake’s direction. “What have we here.”