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Blake’s body tensed and he could feel Ethan’s hand reach for his. He put his left hand on the table and twisted to face his tormentor. His face scrunched up when he noticed Matt staring at Ethan.

“You finally got him to be himself?” Matt smiled at Ethan who quickly turned toward Blake.

“I…Blake…I don’t know what he means. I haven’t talked to him since before you and I met.”

“Easy there, Ethan.” Matt stepped back and scanned the table. “I figured it out when I saw you two last week. Getting him to bring you here just made it official.”

“I didn’t make him do anything.” Ethan pushed his chair back and let go of Blake’s hand. “He asked me to come with him.”

The smirk on Matt’s face slowly faded. “Okay, fine. I was just saying I’m glad he finally decided to be….”

“Who cares what you think?” Despite being at least four inches shorter and a good forty pounds lighter, Ethan stood up and got in Matt’s face. “You almost broke his ankle because you didn’t like how he lived his life? How did that have any thing to do with you?”


“No, you look. You don’t get to make a joke and suddenly it’s all better. You were a major dick. You have no idea how hard any of this is, and yet you think Blake has to live up to your fucked up standards.” Ethan swallowed loudly, but before Matt could speak, he continued. “He should have reported you and had you tossed from school, but he’s better than you. But don’t think because he didn’t turn you in you can just say, ‘shake’ and everything’s fine….”

“Yes, he can.” Blake grabbed Ethan’s hand and pulled him gently to the seat. The look on Ethan’s face wavered from shocked to annoyed and back.

“Blake. He’s….”

“My teammate and my friend.” Pulling Ethan’s fingers to his lips, he felt his heart beating so hard he thought it might burst. Ignoring everyone else in the room, he lightly kissed the fingers and let them go. “But I appreciate the help.”

When Blake stood up, Matt’s swagger had disappeared. “Look, Blake. Ethan’s right in a way; trying to hurt you like that was a dickish move. I’m really sorry about that.” With a sheepish look, Matt held out his hand.

Blake ignored the peace offering. “Until you did that, I thought we were friends.”

“We were…are friends, Blake.”

“Maybe, but if you ever do that to me again, I swear, someone’s gonna need to pry me off of you or haul me away on a stretcher ’cause I’m not taking that shit from you or anyone. Understood?”

He hadn’t meant to sound so angry, but remembering the incident set him off again.

“Yeah. I gotcha, but no worries, it won’t happen again.” Matt pulled his hand back and shrugged. “I know it’s not an excuse, but at that practice after I saw you two together, all I could see was when you called Jason a fag at the start of last season. It irritated the shit out of me when you said it, but finding out you’re gay too? That made me mad.”

“Yeah, well.” At first, Blake avoided looking at Jason, but then stole a quick glance at his friend. “I’m not exactly proud of that moment either. So I guess if you can forget that, I can forget what happened between us.”

Matt’s lip twisted into a smirk. “Can do.”

“Cool.” Blake offered his hand, which Matt accepted. “So we’re good?”

“We’re good.” Matt nodded to his left. “You two enjoy yourselves.”

His heart still racing, Blake watched Matt amble back to his seat. No one said anything, which made him more uncomfortable. Self-conscious that everyone was staring at him, he wished he had Ethan’s gift for knowing the right joke to tell.

“Well,” Ethan’s voice seemed to echo around in the silence. “Now that you two have made up, can we get something to eat? Dean looks ready to eat someone’s arm.”

Nervous laughter filled the space, almost drowning out Dean’s whine. “How come I’m always the butt of everyone’s jokes?”

“You’re a freshman, Little Tellerman.” Eric said, rubbing Dean’s blond hair. “Someone has to be the team butt.”

“Whatever.” Dean shifted his eyes from Eric to Ethan. Before he could say anything, Blake pushed Ethan into his seat.

“Don’t worry, Dean. I’ll keep him on a short leash for the rest of dinner.”

“Leash?” Ethan’s fake surprise told Blake he’d started trouble for himself. “I didn’t see any leashes in your room. Have you been holding out on me?”

As Blake’s face turned red hot, the room erupted around him. Between the laughter and the comments, he knew the team would probably tease him about it for the rest of the season. For once his semi-shy nature served him well and he didn’t tell Ethan he’d pay for what he said.

Instead he shook his head and rolled his eyes. Before he could speak, Ethan leaned closer. “Sorry, but I figured I owed Dean.”

“It’s cool.” He winked and when Ethan’s lips inched upward, Blake knew his message had been received.

“Okay.” Darryl’s voice broke into the commotion. “Now that we’ve had the family drama and they’ve made up, can we order dinner now. Please?”

When his teammates turned their attention to Darryl, Blake mouthed, “Thank you.” Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. He expected the team would accept him; what happened next concerned him more. Before he went too far down that path, he felt a hand on his knee.

Opening his eyes, he found Ethan starting at him. “You’re welcome,” he whispered and gave Blake’s knee a quick squeeze before he pulled his hand back.

For the rest of the night at least, Blake decided to do his best not to worry. Especially since Ethan owed him and he knew just how he intended to collect.

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