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Paved Paradise

“Gable!” Steffy exclaimed.

He was used to this; girls fawning over him, adding him on social media, attempting to garner his attention. He had his choice of any girl on the planet. It was easy for him, even though he didn’t truly feel it.

The parking lot was full of cars. People were passing around bottles, music was blaring, they were young and unbridled. There was nothing quite like a small town tailgating.

“What’s up?” He shot her a smirk and a head tilt. That’s all it took. She walked over to him, and embraced him. He knew that, if he wanted her, she was his.

The same pattern of events happened thrice over. Girl, after girl, after girl; there was no girl that didn’t want him.

“So, Gabe,” a voice behind him initiated, “What’s up with you and Declan?” The guy chuckled.

Gable’s head reeled; he didn’t think he’d have to deal with this tonight.

“What do you mean?” He asked, after taking a moment to regain some inner decorum. The guy neared him. He looked familiar, but he couldn’t place him. A billion thoughts prickled his mind. What did he know? What had Declan said?

“What,” the guy began, “You don’t know?” He laughed again. A couple other people joined in on the laughter. Gable was starting to get unnerved. What were they talking about? Why wasn’t anyone coming clear about anything?

“Declan has been going around saying you’re his boyfriend. You know this. I’ve told you this twice now.” Steffy blurted. Gable’s crown prickled. Yes. He was Declan’s boyfriend. No, he didn’t want to admit to this. Fuck.

“Well,” he looked around at those present, “I’m obviously not gay. Jeremy, you know this.” His jaw tightened.

“Really? So,” Jeremy taunted, “You never ‘dated’ him?”

Gable stood there, without an answer. What was he supposed to say? Should he lie and throw Declan under the bus, or should he bite the bullet and come clean?

“Hell no,” he shook his head, “I’m no faggot; that fucker is delusional, if he thinks I’m gay.” He gave a smug, self entitled, smirk to everyone. What else could he do? He couldn’t let anyone know the truth; they’d ostracize him. He’d be left without any friends.

“So, you NEVER dated him?” Another guy asked.

He was backed into a corner, “NO!” He exclaimed, “I’ve never dated no fucking queer, nor am I one. Fuck Declan Gardner.”

“I’m so happy for you,” Skylar beamed at Declan.

It was a dream come true; never did Declan imagine making the team. Sure, he wanted to, and he worked his ass in order to make it, but actually making it was astronomical.

“I swear to God,” Skylar spoke into his ear, “I will help you, no matter what.”

Declan looked into his eyes. He sensed warmth, belonging.

“Alright, men,” Coach Johnson addressed, “Go rest up; Monday will come sooner than you think.”

As they walked away, Declan’s determination to become better and prove his worth replaced his want to make the team. He’d made it, now came time to become who he was destined to be.

“Fuck that faggot.” Jeremy declared.

They all raised their drinks in agreement.

Gable remained conflicted; his façade steadfastly calm. He couldn’t allow his face externalize his inner emotions. However, the longer he stayed, the more irritated he grew. Why couldn’t they just let the situation be? Did they have to talk so negatively about Declan?

He was frustrated. He had gone out, in search of a fun night, and ended up receiving a migraine. Gable excused himself from the gathering in order to urinate. His phone snapped open, and he drafted another message to Declan.

“What the fuck are you doing to me?” He tapped angrily.

“Are you okay,” Steffy approached him, two beers in hand, “here.”

Gable connected eyes with her, sighed and took the beer she offered.

“I’ll be fine.” He shrugged, and took a sip from the bottle.

“I don’t even understand why you’re still his friend, Gable,” she shook her head, “he’s clearly demented. Kick his ass, or something.”

Gable searched his mind for an adequate answer, but it was to no avail.

“We could always do something to get your mind off things?” She continued.

Gable raised his eyebrow, before Steffy closed the space between them, and began kissing him sloppily. He kissed back, before his ringing phone interrupted their passionate exchange.

“Sorry,” he apologized, as he pulled away, “I can’t do this. I’m too pissed off right now,” he lied.

Steffy rolled her eyes, and walked off. Rejected, again, by the same guy due to Declan. Due to a ‘fucking faggot’ as she often thought about him.

“Fucking bullshit.” She sneered under her breath.

He reached into his bag, once in his car. His phone vibrated furiously with an influx of messages. Most were from Gable, others were from those present at the tailgating. Some of the messages ridiculed him, while Gable’s were full of expletives and condemnations. He couldn’t stop himself from crying.

How was it that, with a few choice words, the happiest day of his life could be ruined?

“What the fuck are you doing to me?” read the one of Gable’s messages.

"What are you talking about?" He responded.

"You keep telling everyone about us." He read.

Declan’s heart pounded. It was true, he had gushed about his relationship before, but hadn’t, since he’d begun homeschooling. He should’ve known better than to divulge the ongoings between Gable and him, but his happiness prevented him from keeping it quelled.

“I’m so sorry.” Was all he could say.

“Sorry? Seriously? I begged you, Declan. You said this would stop, after you started homeschooling.” Gable’s message read. He was enraged with him. He knew it.

The argument lasted well until Declan got home. His face showed the signs of a long, weeping session. He dragged his body into his room, threw his bag beside his bed, and lost himself in the pillow. He made a mistake. It was his fault. Gable wouldn’t answer his call or texts. He was sure that he’d done it.

He opened his phone and drafted a message, to whom, he didn’t know. His mind went over the possibilities, and without skipping a beat he sent the distressed text to Emeli.

She responded and obliged to help Declan. Though he would never know what she said, a few hours later, he was standing before Gable, at his cattle barn.

“This needs to stop, Declan.” He shook his head, “I do love you, and I’ve never felt this way about a person... Much less a guy, but if you keep telling people, it’s going to cause so many problems for me and for us.” He looked down at his feet.

Declan sighed, “I know. I’m sorry.”

“You can’t just keep apologizing and expecting it to be okay, Dec.” his brow furrowed.

“I don’t know what else to say...” He muttered timidly.

Gable scratched his head. It was such a frustrating situation. What ever social stigmas existed should not factor in how he felt about himself, or their relationship. However, he knew that, regardless of how he felt, it was detrimental towards his public image.

“Look, just... Let this cool off for a while.” Gable finally suggested.

Declan frowned, he didn’t want this to come to an end; they had so much more to live through. Their relationship was meant to have a happy ending, he believed it steadfastly.

Gable walked towards him and enveloped him, “I’m not breaking up with you… We just have to be careful, alright? I don’t want to lose you, as much as you don’t want to lose me.” He lifted his chin and planted a reluctant kiss on the gymnast’s forehead.

Declan smirked and pressed his cheek to the jock’s chest.

“I swear, I won’t mess up again.” Declan longed into the jade stones that were Gable’s eyes. They squinted directly into his, warming his entire being.

Neither of them wanted the moment to end, but reality called for them to return to their respective lives. Could this possibly work? Would people eventually back off? Did this have a future? Or was it just a fling? Would it be a paper cut or leave a scar? Neither of them could imagine the conundrum of a sojourn they’d soon embark on.

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