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The tackle from behind sent Blake tumbling toward the pitch. Even before he got to his feet, he knew who’d done it.

“What the fuck was that, Matt?” Darryl stood inches from Matt. “Are you trying to take out our starting mid?

“What?” Matt glared at Blake over Darryl’s shoulder. “He’s hiding behind you now?”

“Fuck you, Hopkins.” Blake tried to lunge at his teammate, but a pair of hands pulled him back.

“What the fuck’s going on?” Jason screamed inches from Blake’s ear.

“Lemme go, Jase.”  He struggled to  break away, but the arms holding him tightened. “Asshole took my legs out from behind.”

“Whatever.” Matt’s lips twisted into a sneer. “Go cry to Jason if you can’t take it.”

“Stop it!” Darryl shoved Matt with both hands. “What’s gotten into you? That was a crap tackle and you know it. You could have hurt him and the team.”

“It was a legit tackle.” He snapped his arm in Blake’s direction. “He needs to man up.”

“No, you need to go cool off.” Darryl continued to get in his face.

“Fuck you, Minger. You’re not the coach.”

“Fine.” Darryl shrugged. “I’ll go tell coach what happened and suggest he send you off for the day.”

Blake glared at Matt’s back, hoping he stayed on the pitch. As the rest of the team had started to surround them, he stopped twisting to get away.

“What!” Matt spun around throwing both arms wide. “You’d snitch me out? For that…for him?”

Across the field, Blake saw Coach Stevens slowly started to walk over. He’d want someone to explain why his practice had stopped. Great. “Just what I need.”

“Either you go cool off because we asked or….” Jason shrugged and waited for Matt’s response.

“Jase.” Matt glanced over to where Coach Stevens had stopped.

“Just go, Matt.” Jason must have sensed Matt giving up because he tone softened. “We’ll talk later.”

“Fine. We will talk later.” Matt turned around and never looked back.

“D, can you….” Jason motioned toward their coach.

“Gotcha, you two go get a drink.” Darryl jogged off without waiting for a response.

“You okay?” The inflexion in Jason’s voice told Blake he meant more than just the tackle.

“Fine. I’ll handle it.”

Jason quickly stepped in front of him. “No. This ends now. I don’t want either of you trying to take the other out.”

“I owe him.” Vengeance wasn’t big on Blake’s list, but no way Matt got away with what he did. “He’s been sniping at me all practice. That was just the worst one.”

“I’ll talk to him later, but you guys are not going to hurt each other.” He turned toward the sideline. “The team needs you both.”

“Why is everyone standing around?” Coach Stevens’ voice boomed across the field. “Minger, did you and Tellerman give everyone a rest break already? Does anyone want to practice or am I going to see everyone doing twenty laps after practice?”

Blake tried to suppress a smile–he didn’t feel like being happy about anything–but he failed. “Are we going to get twenty laps for this?”

“Probably.” Jason wore a goofy smirk when he turned to toss Blake a water bottle. “You seem to get me in trouble the first week of practice, don’t you?”

Chugging half the icy liquid, Blake shook his head when he finished. “This is so not my fault. He’s being a total douche.”

“Any idea why?” Jason took a long pull on his bottle.

“Aside from the obvious–he’s a douche–no.” The only answer he could think of, Jason wouldn’t believe.

“None?” Raising an eyebrow, Jason put the bottle down. “You didn’t run into him during Ethan’s visit?”

“If you can ask that question, you know the answer.” Finishing his water, Blake hurled the bottle and started to go back to the field. After two steps he turned around. “And if you spoke to them, maybe they told you what’s up his ass. He kept glaring at me Friday like I’d just fucked his girlfriend or something.”

“What are you talking about?”

Lifting the end of his shirt, Blake wiped the sweat from his face. “Matt saw me with Ethan and immediately got this disgusted, angry expression.”

“Why?”

“How the fuck should I know?” He hadn’t meant to say it that loud. Looking around he noted a couple of his teammates stared in their direction. “One minute everything was fine, the next he was angry Matt. And today confirmed it.”

“Confirmed what?”

He exhaled loudly. Why was Jason being so dense? Making sure he lowered his voice he said, “That he doesn’t like the fact I’m gay.”

“Matt?” Jason turned in the direction Matt walked off. “That’s ridiculous. Matt’s always had my back.”

“Yeah, the key word being your back.” He hadn’t expected Jason to believe him. “Maybe it’s because you two were friends first? Or you were the team captain?”

“Blake, you’re friends with Matt too. How’s your situation any different?”

Were they really ever friends? Maybe not good friends, but he and Matt had hung out and everything seemed fine. “I don’t know Jase, but he was pissed then and you saw what he did today. You tell me what’s changed since Friday afternoon?”

Jason stared at the grass, not speaking. At least he considered what Blake had said.

“I don’t know.” He shook his head, finally meeting Blake’s gaze. “But we’re going to figure this out.”

“We?” Blake shook his head. “No way. If I get near him, I’m going to kick his ass. He nearly broke my ankle with that tackle.”

Before he answered, Jason poured the rest of the water over his own head. Slicking his hair back, he sprayed the area with water. “Fine, but I’m going to speak to Matt. Once I find out what’s going on, you and he will need to speak. Peacefully.”

“No promises. I owe….”

“Blake, listen to me. You go after him and you hurt him, Coach, the school, everyone, will know why it happened. They’ll kick you out.” He put his arm around Blake. “Don’t let Matt be the reason you get expelled.”

He wanted to argue that it didn’t matter, but it did. Matt wouldn’t win. Blake wouldn’t let him. “Thanks, Jase.”

“You bet.” After a quick squeeze, Jason let go. “Now let’s see if I can talk coach out giving us laps.”

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