Declan laid in bed, motionless.
His alarm clock read ten minutes past seven. Months ago, he would’ve been late to practice.
He could still hear the heavy breathing of his teammates as they ran around the outside of the gym for their cardio. Side by side. All of them, pushing each other to be the best.
Before his transformation, he didn’t have friends outside of school, other than those he interacted with online. However, those people were from other places, countries even. Now, he had become part of a brotherhood. People don’t quite understand the immense feeling of camaraderie being part of a team meant. For Declan, it was the world.
The smell of the fresh dew on the grass sprung from his subconscious; it was intoxicatingly haunting. It’d been so long since he had actually smelled it, but he could recall it with incredible vividness. It’s baffling how smell could trigger a memory.
Sunday morning came faster than they expected. Declan, unable to make the drive home, spent the night at Skylar’s.
The alarm on the nightstand blasted its discordant tune into his room, awaking Declan prematurely. Skylar’s arm was wrapped around his midsection, holding him close. He smirked, and climbed out of bed. After showering and getting ready, they made the dreadful drive to WTGA.
“I’m not looking forward to this.” Declan sighed.
“Me either, but… We have to.” Skylar frowned, “I can’t believe I threw up again.”
“Yeah, at least you didn’t throw up on Coach Johnson.” That elicited a laugh from both of them.
They arrived, grabbed their bags and walked into the gym. One by one, their teammates arrived. They all exchanged pitiful looks, knowing very well what was about to happen.
Coach Johnson entered the gym with a stern look on his face and ordered them to line up.
“Can anyone tell me what the punishment is for your PITIFUL performances?” Coach said as he walked up and down the line.
They had performed terribly at the invitational, and as the host team, brought nothing but shame to their gym. No one stuck a landing. It was as if all their hard work had been for naught.
Their routines were hindered by the food poisoning, but Coach Johnson didn’t care about excuses. He was known for his intense regimens, but nothing would compare to this practice.
“We have to run for every mistake.” Tommy finally answered. The entire gang showed discomfort from the confession, mostly because they knew Coach Johnson was not going to make this easy for any of them. He had instilled a sense of responsibility in them, and they intended to finish this as a team, regardless of the brutality of what they’d have to do.
“Exactly. 20 miles. From each of you. In full gear.” Coach demanded. His tone stoic, and cold.
They looked at each other, dumbfounded. They were gymnasts, not cross-country runners. It was seven in the morning, who knew how long they’d be there. Some shook their heads, others gritted their teeth. Declan clenched his jaw and sighed.
“What, are you guys deaf now?!” He bellowed, “GO! NOW!”
In a collective eye roll, they began their run. One by one they exited the gym into the morning light. It was chilly, but they were in full tracksuits so they doubted the severity of the weather.
Thirty minutes in, and it was clear they’d underestimated the heat. Each one of them were sweating profusely, Coach must have known what he was doing, when he’d demanded they wear their tracksuits; it was brutal.
Half way through their punishment, Jesse began throwing up, followed by Skylar, and eventually Trace. Declan’s side hurt, but he continued the run until it began cramping, he sat down and grasped at his right oblique in agony.
Tommy was the only one who kept running vigorously, always trying to show his worth, and right next to him was Jason. They both continued a steady jog as they lapped their exhausted team members.
“MY SIDE!.” Declan exclaimed towards the duo as they jogged further away. They turned around, looked at each other and sped back towards their fallen comrades, “YOU GUYS GO ON. LEAVE ME TO DIE.”
“You have a cramp, just calm down. Breathe. We leave no fag behind.” Tommy said between laughs to Declan, he then looked towards Jesse, Skylar and Trace, “You guys need some hydration. Jason?”
“I’m on it.” Jason said as he sped towards the gym to get them all water. They needed a break, and water. Coach watched them intently from his office. They were genuinely helping each other out, and it validated the potential he saw in each of them. They were finally a team.
Two more breaks after that and three and a half hours later, they were all done. As they began entering the gym, they were treated to another sight of torture. Their hell was long from over. Six ropes hung from the ceiling.
“Go. Until I get tired.” Coach Johnson muttered.
Again, they all looked at each other on disbelief. Surely he couldn’t be this sadistic... But, he was Russian, after all.
Skylar was the first to start climbing, but Coach stopped him, before he got too ahead of himself.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Coach inquired.
“Climbing the rope? Like you told us to?” Skylar reminded him.
“No. Straddle. From the ground up. Do it right.”
Declan’s jaw fell to the ground, as did the jaws of a couple other guys. There was no way. In what kind of world was this legal?! Surely there was some kind of child labor laws that protected them from being treated like this. Where was CPS when you needed them?
“Oh… Fuck me.” Declan muttered.
“What was that, Decs?” Coach asked.
“Good. That’s what I thought. Now get to climbing.”
Climb they did. For about two entire hours they climbed the damn ropes. Declan was the slowest climbing up and down, a couple times he even failed to grip on properly, causing him gnarly rope burns. Tommy and Jason, in their ongoing alpha male bout, raced each other the entire time.
“This is like fifty shades of unfair.” Declan grunted as he began to descend from the ceiling, thighs on fire from holding them in straddle.
“And you’re fifty shades of gay, but no one bitches about it.” Tommy joked.
Skylar and a couple of the other guys laughed. The entire day was made up of near Draconian punishments, but the fact that they had to endure them together, enabled them to bond more than they could have ever imagined. They motivated and pushed each other to be better and not give up. In this sport, an athlete’s foundation and support system were paramount.
Their arms felt like lead, at the end of the day. It was unjust, but Coach Johnson didn’t seem to care.
“I burned my hands, coach.” Declan whimpered.
“You also landed on your ass on Saturday, but you didn’t whine about that, so why whine about a little rope burn?”
Declan shook his head, dejected.
After a few more seemingly illegal tribulations, including planks, incredibly intense circuit workouts, holding iron crosses for minutes at a time, and having to clean all of the equipment spotless, they were finally dismissed.
“Let that be a lesson to each and every one of you. You steer from the diets I have compiled for you again, and I will make sure to make this look like a walk in the park in comparison. Capiche?”
They all nodded and changed back into their street clothes. They didn’t even bother to take ice baths. No one dared talk as they walked out. They were entirely too tired to form words, except for Declan. His phone vibrated intensely, when he checked to see who was calling, Gable’s name flash on the screen.
“Hey, are you busy?” Gable asked Declan over the phone.
“Just got out of practice, actually. Coach worked us into the ground.”
“Well, how’s about you come over, we hang out, catch a movie and then you take me out to dinner?” Gable smiled on the other side of the phone.
“Haha, eh... Maybe. I’m all smelly.” Declan smiled into his phone.
“We could shower? No one is here.” He could hear his eyebrow raise flirtatiously.
“Mr. Cask, you’re saying all the right things.”
“Haha, well, aren’t you the future Mr. Cask? I might as well exercise my rights. Haha.” Gable’s laugh was infectious.
“I love you. Alright, I’ll be there in 20,” he giggled.
“Love you too, babe.” Gable ended.
With that, Declan tossed his stuff into his car, stretched one last time, and drove off.
Skylar watched Declan’s car drive away. He hated not being able to talk to him in the way Gable did. He hated how good it felt to sleep next to him, to hold him… To feel like he was his. It pained him to know how bad Gable was using Declan and not being able to tell him anything, because he knew, regardless of what he said, Declan would never listen… Much less believe him.
Declan arrived in Bethlam a while later, and headed directly towards Gable’s, as he arrived, he saw the teenager through the window of his house.
He was obviously waiting for Declan, and when they connected eyes, his face lit up. He raced to unlock the door, and rushed towards his car to open the door for him.
“Well, sweet and chivalrous in one day?” Declan raised his eyebrow, “Who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend?”
Gable chuckled nervously, it was evident something was amuck.
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” he said in a near regretful tone.
They walked towards the entrance, opened the door, entered, and locked the door behind them. They didn’t waste any time, both knew their alone time was precious and didn’t come often.
Their kissing became passionate, hands exploring each other’s bodies, heavy breathing… Gable was quick to take his shirt off, he broke the kiss and smiled down at the gymnast. Declan followed suit and took his own shirt off, the jock picked him up, and kissed him fervently the entire way to the bathroom.
Gable turned on the shower, and disrobed. Declan dropped to his knees and swallowed the exposed cock causing him to moan sensuously. It was exhilarating to both of them; their sex was more fervid than anything either had ever experienced.
At first, it had been almost awkward, but now that they had grown accustomed to one another, defects and all, it had become an almost out-of-body experience.
“Let’s get in the shower…” Gable moaned, enticing Declan to remove the remainder of his clothes and join him under the warm stream.
Again, they resumed their physical ritual. Moans and the sounds of water trickling filled the room. They were both enraptured by one another that they failed to hear the front door open.
Declan turned around and let Gable finger him in lieu of him entering him. Suddenly, there was a rapping at the bathroom door. They both froze in their stance and stared at the other in fear.
“You two hurry up in there. I need to pee!” Gable’s sister, Julia, rushed from the other side of the door. They burst with laughter, relieved to know it wasn’t one of Gable’s parents.
They quickly finished showering and exited the bathroom with towels around their waists.
“I don’t even want to know.” Julia shook her head as she entered the now deserted bathroom, “Hi, Declan.” She shouted behind her.
Again, they shared a laugh. Gable wrapped his arms around Declan’s smaller frame and began kissing him again. Their bodies touching, wet, but warm. He pulled the smaller frame closer and closer to him, until the bulges forming under their towels began to press against each other. Gable ended the kiss, grabbed his hand and led them to his bedroom.
He threw Declan onto the bed, and climbed on top of him. Their towels still wrapped around their waists. Gable looked down at him and smiled. It was seemingly perfect, but he knew he couldn’t be with the gymnast anymore.
It was futile to think their relationship would be fine if he just came out. He knew he’d be berated, ridiculed, ostracized even, but he loved him, and that’s all that mattered in this moment. He leaned down to kiss him once more.
“Gable, I’m… Woah. I’m in the room.” Julia interrupted their moment.
“What the hell do you want?” Gable asked, annoyed.
“Calm your man tits,” she snapped, “I’m hungry. What are we eating for dinner? You know mom won’t be home for a while. Oh, and Declan, are you staying for dinner?”
“Yes. He is. And I don’t know… If you’d give me a minute, I could probably think of something to make.”
“Yeah, not going to happen… As much as I would absolutely love to wait, I’m not really feeling listening to gay boy sex right now.”
“Hey, you want to know a secret?” Gable asked, sarcastically.
“Is it a fairytale?” Julia raised her eyebrow.
Gable looked at her with the confused face a puppy would make, “A fair… Fairytale?”
“Get it? Fairy. Tale. Because, you’re a fairy. No? I thought that one was funny… Tough crowd.”
“Regardless, can you please give us a minute?” Gable insisted.
“We’re naked.” Declan finally spoke.
“Oh, shit. Yeah, get dressed and then come out. KAYBYE.” She shut the door behind her.
“I’m sorry, I hate her when she does shit like that.” Gable shook his head as he opened the door to go get their clothes.
“I heard that!” She shouted.
“I meant for you to hear that!” He retorted.
Declan giggled, and covered himself with his comforter. He looked around his room, analyzing every single nook and cranny.
Posters of Taylor Swift were hung from his walls, his numerous trophies sat atop shelves and his dresser. He opened his nightstand, and what he saw caused his stomach to flutter as if it were the Oyamel Fir Forest.
Three pictures of him and them together rested on top of the letters he’d written him since the beginning of their relationship. A smile crept upon his lips, but before he could gush any further, he heard the jock coming.
“Were you wearing black boxers, or was I?” He asked, nearly catching Declan snooping around.
“I was.” Declan smiled.
“Alright, well,” he tossed their clothes in a bag, “get dressed so we can eat supper; you can borrow some of my clothes for the time being.”
He noticed Declan blushing a deep scarlet, “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing.” Declan’s dimples hurt from smiling so hard.
“You’re so cute,” he walked over and kissed him one last time, “get dressed.
“I’m going to vomit.” Karen shook her head, “that was freakin’ cute.”
Declan smirked, “Yeah...”
“I think that was all the proof you really needed to know that he really did love you,” she examined, “or at least cared about you deeply.”
He shrugged and sighed, as they walked into the group therapy room. They sat next to each other, as opposed to across the room like when he first got there. He never thought he’d have a bond this strong with one of his fellow peers. Hell, he never thought he’d even come to enjoy recounting anecdotes that once haunted and clouded his consciousness.
“Hey, Karen,” Toby nodded at her. His gaze lingering, examining her from head to toe.
Karen shot him an ambivalent smile and quickly looked away.
“He’s been trying to get into my pants lately,” She whispered.
Declan choked on his spit.
“He what?” He whispered back.
“Yeah, he’s been coming around during your individual sessions like clock work. He thinks we’re into each other.”
Declan giggled nervously. How could anyone get that impression? He was queer as a three-dollar bill. Hell, blind people’s dogs knew he was gay. It wasn’t a secret.
“Don’t worry,” she assured, “I explained our situation to him, but he’s still all about me.”
“Well, why don’t you give him a chance? He’s not bad looking.” He shrugged.
It was true; Toby’s curly raven hair, strong jaw, James Dean glossy blue eyes, and a slightly defined build made him a rather a attractive specimen, nothing to call home about, though.
“Maybe… We’ll see.” She tossed her hair.
Their group session was filled with trust exercises that day. Affirmations, confrontations, realizations, and everything else under the sun. It lasted for a little over an hour and a half, and distracted them from the prison they lived in. It was a nice little escape for the time being.
“Karen, can I have a second?” Toby asked before Declan and Karen walked out.
She gave Declan a knowing, irritated, look, but walked back towards Toby nevertheless. It was painfully obvious she enjoyed the attention, and was merely playing coy.
He stood there watching them interact, analyzing her body language. They seemed to reach a conclusion and she walked back smirking. He didn’t even have to ask her, she just nodded and helped him walk back to his room. He didn’t need to use his crutches anymore, but he still limped slightly.
“Alright, well…” Karen began.
“You don’t even have to tell me. I know what you’re off to do. Have fun.” Declan winked at her. She smiled, closed his door and skipped off.