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Soccer Background Cover 3.2 Titled copy

“C’mon, Dean!” Darryl slapped the ball as he walked closer.  “No way Eric should’ve gotten past you with that move. Get your head in the game.”

Looking at his friend and captain, Dean tried to regain his focus. He had blown that play. “Sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t going to cut it if we end up running laps because we lose.” Darryl punted the ball toward midfield. “Something wrong?”

Dean shook his head, but Darryl kept staring. Wrong?  No. But he knew he needed to do better.  “No, nothing’s wrong. Just thinking about stuff.”

“Jase and Peter will be fine. The trial’s almost over.”

“It’s not that.” If only it was that simple. “It’s…never mind. Let’s play.”

He did his best to put on a good face. No way he wanted to be the reason his side ended up running twenty laps after practice.  As the others moved into position, he gave Darryl a thumbs up sign when his captain looked back.

Whether or not Matt knew it, running the attack through Dean had paid off. Maybe it had been a test, but from the way Matt had been watching him, Dean couldn’t be sure.

Fine, if the other side thought he was the weak link, he’d step it up and stuff them.  Hopefully Blake and the other attackers could put the ball in the back of the net before time ran out.

* * *

The engine cut off, but Darryl didn’t open the door. Staring straight ahead, it took Dean a moment before he realized they’d stopped. When he turned to his left, he saw Darryl staring a hole in him.

“Okay, ‘lil Tellerman, what’s going on?”

“Huh?” Dean knew it wouldn’t work, but he tried anyway. “What do you mean?”

“You. What’s going on? You were out of it at practice….”

“Hey, after that first mistake….”

“I kept back to cover for you.” Darryl’s eyes narrowed just enough to show his annoyance. “My plan had been to push forward and take it to them, but that changed when I couldn’t rely on you.”

Dean’s head snapped to the side and he clenched his jaw. “I didn’t need the help. I had it under control.”

“No. You didn’t.” Twisting in his seat, Darryl inched closer. “I’ve known you since you were six. I probably know you almost as well as Jase. So you wanna tell me what’s up or should I let Jase deal with it when he gets back.”

“Leave him out of this. He’s got enough going on.” Jason had practically shadowed him since the incident with the beer so adding another reason to his plate wouldn’t help Dean gain some freedom.

“I agree, but as his best friend, I can’t let it slide when I know you’re dealing with something.” He looked down at his keys. “Last thing he needs is to come back and find you’re in trouble.”

“I’m not in trouble.” The force of his words made him sound defensive. “Really, it’s not like that. I’m okay.”

“So if it’s not like that, what is it?”

He knew Darryl meant well, but Dean rarely confided in people and when he did it had always been his brother. Despite what he said, Darryl couldn’t replace Jason.

“I’m fine. Can we just let it go?”

“No.” Darryl put the key back in the ignition and started the car.

Panicked, Dean tried to open the door only to hear it lock on him. “What’re you doing?”

“We’re going to get coffee and talk.”

Before Dean could protest, the blue Mustang backed out of the spot, pivoted and they were moving east on Otis street.

“Seriously, just let it go.”

“No can do, ‘lil T.” Darryl spared him a quick glance. “Besides this is one of those, ‘ties that bind’ moments where you go from being Jase’s little brother, Deano, into being my friend.”

“Your friend?” Sure they were friendly, but Darryl was his brother’s best friend, someone who tolerated him because Jason asked him to.

“Yeah.” Darryl check left before he made a right turn. “I mean I know me and Jase have been tight since forever and he’ll always be my best friend, but you’re eighteen, you’re grown up. We’re teammates, and housemates. If you weren’t Jason’s brother, I consider you like an equal now, so I don’t see why I’d treat you worse for knowing you so long.”

Dean stared out the window, watching as they passed cars and people. In high school he’d been accepted as Jason’s little brother and allowed to hang out with him and his friends. After his brother graduated, Dean had his own friends and his own circle of people he ran with. Jason and Darryl always seemed so much older because they were in college already. But now?

He hadn’t noticed they’d reached the parking lot until Darryl spoke.

“Look, Dean. I won’t push it. There were…are…things I’d rather talk to my older brothers about than even Jason. But there are also things I’d rather not speak to them about.”

“It’s not that. I’m not…it’s not anything I don’t want to talk to you or Jason about.” Dean knew, despite all the teasing he gave out, Darryl never meant any harm. “I kinda need to sort it out myself.”

“No pressure, but if you need someone to talk to, you can always talk to me.” He held up his fist and after a few seconds, Dean tapped his to Darryl’s. “C’mon, let’s get something to drink and we can text Jason and see what happened in court today.”

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