Britland – Chapter 9 – Turning Point

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As if his feet had a mind of their own Felix found himself outside a club. He knew he shouldn’t go inside not when Britland’s parents were still there. Crystal’s troubled green eyes flashed before him making him feel even worse. He needed something to blot out that image. A drink. A pretty girl. A game of pool. Anything to remind him that he didn’t need or deserve the things he was beginning to want. He was all about having fun. Being the life of the party. Crystal was sweetness. Responsibility. All the things he didn’t want or did he?

He pushed the door open. Walked inside ready to throw caution to the wind. Several heads swiveled in his direction. He nodded as he walked up to the bar. Smiling towards the bar man he ordered a toasted shipwreck. Took a gulp of the fiery liquid. He felt it make it’s slow painful slide to his stomach.

He smiled over at the girl who was eyeing him up and down like she was shopping for prized meat. She wrinkled nose at him before turning away. Curiosity piqued he sauntered over to her. Leaning against the bar he took another swallow of his drink before amping up the charm.

She was older than she appeared from across the room. There were fine lines around her eyes and mouth. Not that it mattered when he needed to get his rocks off. “Go away” she ordered disdainfully with a flick of her manicured fingers.

“Hey” he cried a little taken aback “you’re the one giving me the come hither look.”

“As I recall I wrinkled my nose in disgust” the woman raised a painted eyebrow towards the ceiling. “Go away little boy. I’m looking for a real man.”

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“Last time I checked I have all the equipment of a real man” Felix assured her his voice deepening as if to prove he was man enough for her.

Pushing against him she rose from the stool “you may have the equipment but how well do use it?”

“Why don’t you give me a ride and find out” he challenged. He could see by the flicker in her eyes he was making progress. Her eyes traveled up and down his body settling on a part of him below his belt. He knew by the way her eyes lingered he would be getting some tonight.

“Get your hands off me” a familiar voice exclaimed loud and full of fear.

Without meaning to Felix turned to find a young girl being surrounded by several burly men. He moved to intervene when the woman he had been propositioning grabbed his arm. “You leave now don’t bother coming back” she pursed her lips puffing out her breasts for maximum effect.

His eyes lingered on her cleavage. A frustrated groan escaped his lips before he forced himself to turn away and insert himself between the men and the girl.

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“Leave her alone,” he growled at the larger older man.

“Or what” the man challenged lifting Felix off the ground with one hand.

Swallowing hard Felix made a show of not being afraid despite his rapid heart beat. “Put him down” Crystal screamed.

Laughing the man shook Felix “looks like your girlfriend fights better than you.” He grunted in pain when Crystal kicked his shin.

“I said put him down” she demanded undeterred by the man’s size.

“What happens if I don’t” he asked looking down at her while his friends cheered him on.
She didn’t respond other than to remove a small spray bottle from her bag. Quickly she sprayed its contents into his face. The man’s beefy hands released Felix as he screamed in pain rubbing at his eyes.

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Felix scrambled to his feet. Grabbed her hand and ran for the door. He didn’t stop until he flagged down a taxi. “Get in” he ordered.

“But my car” she pointed towards the parking lot.

“We’ll get it tomorrow” Felix promised her “unless you have more mace?”

“Well I” she got into the taxi “I used most of it on that guerrilla.”

“What were you doing there?” he demanded startling the girl.

“I” she glanced away from him “I followed you. I wanted to know why you came to this club.”

“So you decided to come by yourself” he ran a hand through his hair.

“I wasn’t alone” she protested “you were there.”

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“I didn’t know you were there” he couldn’t believe she was being so obtuse. “What would have happened if I wasn’t there?” His mind thinking of the woman he almost left with “its not safe for girls to be out alone.”

Anger darkened her eyes “don’t hand me that tired old gender card. It’s no more dangerous for me than for you.” Tapping on the divider she yelled “stop the car.”

When the car came to a stop Felix followed her onto the sidewalk. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m going to get my car” she yelled walking back the way they had come.

“No you’re not” he grabbed her arm.

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Everything happened so quickly after that. She instinctively pulled her mace out spraying the remaining contents into his eyes. He dropped to his knees holding his hands over his eyes, grunting in pain. “What did you do that for” he screamed.

“I’m sorry” she cried watching in horror as he writhed on the ground “it was reflex. You grabbed me. I sprayed.”

“It can’t be helped now” he looked up through half closed swollen watery eyes. “Is the taxi still here?”

Biting her bottom lip she shook her head “he left.”

“Help me up” he requested holding out a hand “we’ll walk until we see another one.”

“Those guys” Crystal began “you know them, don’t you?”

“Yeah” he nodded refusing to meet her eyes.

“Were they the ones who left you in the alley?”

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He chuckled mirthlessly “that was the bartender. I passed out and I guess he wanted to go home.”

“You drink too much” her tone was matter of fact neither accepting or condemnatory.

“I guess” he conceded with a shrug. No one had ever cared enough to tell him before. Britland would have if he wasn’t so distracted with Carson or maybe he had gotten better at hiding it. This was the first time he had ever admitted out loud that he might drink too much even to himself.

“Why don’t you stop” her voice was void of pressure or incrimination. If anything she sounded curious.

“It’s fun” he tried to make it a joke. Inside he was thinking it was the only time he felt alive. That somehow he mattered in the grand scheme of things.

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She gave him a thoughtful look before slowly shaking her head. “I don’t think waking up in garbage as much fun.”

“Ever try it” he smirked attempting to make light of it.

“No” she shook her head vehemently making her long hair swirl around her face. “I also haven’t been snake bit but I know I wouldn’t want to be either.”

He hated to admit it but she had him. There were things you didn’t have to try to know you didn’t want to. “I don’t know what to say” he mumbled. Maybe he was feeling sorry for himself or maybe he was ready for a change. He didn’t know any more. At this point it didn’t really matter.

She gave him another thoughtful look. The kind where you could see the thoughts flicking by behind her eyes as she analyzed things. “Can I make a suggestion” she asked.

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“I’m all ears” he said flippantly giving her the impression he could care less.

Crystal frowned hesitating before disclosing what she though would help. Something in his eyes made her plunge ahead past her doubts. “Would you like to see what I do for fun?”

It was his turn to look thoughtful. It sounded boring. He couldn’t imagine anything she liked being something he’d enjoy. Maybe a casual walk in the park or something equally lame passed as stimulating to her but it wasn’t something he’d ever consider. She must have seen his reluctance in his face as she looked away sighing. “Alright I’ll try. I won’t promise to like it but I’ll try.” The expression on her face showed her shock but it did nothing to encourage him that he’d enjoy her idea of fun.

***

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Britland stared at his phone. Another text from an unknown caller. He had been getting more of them since his parents visit two weeks ago. It had to be a joke. There couldn’t be someone who disliked him this much. At least he couldn’t think of anyone. He was going to ask his dad for his opinion but had gotten distracted. Even now he could hardly believe Carson like him. Like really really liked him.

His heart skipped a beat. Maybe several beats in a row as he recalled the moment their lips met for the first time. He brought a hand up to his lips. Closing his eyes he could imagine how it felt. It was everything he hoped it would be and more.

A soft knock pulled him back to the present. “Are you ready?” Carson called through the door “we have to be at the studio early.”

Glancing at the time Britland hastily combed his hair. “Almost” he called as he looked around for his shoes forgetting about the troublesome text.

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“Better put that on silent” Carson pointed towards the phone Britland held in his hand. “The photographer we have today is notorious for throwing fits whenever someone takes a call during a shoot.”

“Thanks” Britland nodded as he silenced his phone relieved that he wouldn’t be alerted whenever he received a text from his unknown stalker. If only he’d had a chance to ask his dad about it before he left.

“Is something wrong?” Carson asked observing his unusual distracted behavior.

“Nope” he shook his head “everything’s fine.”

Carson watched him a moment with an expression that said he knew something was up but he didn’t know what. “You do know you can tell me anything, right?”

“Yeah sure” Britland nodded hurrying towards the door hoping that during their ride to the studio something would come up to distract Carson from asking any more questions.

***

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Sitting in the taxi idling in a long line of other commuters Britland fretted “we’re going to be late.”

“We have plenty of time” Carson assured him “what’s bothering you?”

“Nothing” Britland said pushing his concerns away.

“Liar” Carson hissed “I’ve seen the way you’ve been checking your phone. Are you seeing someone else?”

“What” he asked turning to face Carson in the taxi. He could see the hurt in his lavender eyes. “What gives you that idea?”

“It’s just the way you keep looking at your phone” Carson shrugged glancing at his hands. “Do you regret that day in the park? The kiss?” He hadn’t meant to ask “tell me what I’m thinking is wrong” he pleaded.

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“Of course you’re wrong” Britland blurted out heedless of the curious looks from the driver. “I’ve never loved anyone like I do you.” The car lurched ahead in traffic “the texts they’re not what you think….” He stopped doubt welling up inside him. Would Carson be upset that he hadn’t told him about the threatening texts, phone calls, the letters? Would he think he was being overly dramatic? Would he laugh like it was a joke?

“If they’re not from some secret lover I won’t be upset” Carson assured him “please tell me.”

“I” he swallowed shaking his head “it’s nothing. I’m just making a big deal over nothing.”

“It doesn’t feel like nothing” Carson contradicted him. The taxi came to a stop outside the studio. Britland hurried out of the taxi and made a beeline for the door.

“This discussion isn’t over” Carson called after him as he took care of the fare.

***

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Carson was standing on the sidelines waiting his turn in front of the camera. He watched as Britland followed the instructions of the finicky photographer. He smiled at the ease in which Britland took the instructions. You would never be able to guess he had only been doing this for a few months. A loud creaking noise alarmed them all as an overhead light fell from the ceiling.

It seemed to happen in slow motion. One minute Carson was admiring his boyfriend and the next he was wondering if he were alive. People were screaming and crying as plaster fell from the ceiling. Dust was thick in the air making it difficult to breathe. Carson stumbled towards the place he had last seen Britland. “Brit” he choked as he spotted his crumpled body beneath the beam. Blood oozed from his nose and ears. It wasn’t immediately discernible if the blonde was breathing or not.

Carson wrapped his hands around the beam attempting to lift it from Britland’s unconscious form. It wouldn’t budge. Helplessly he realized he’d heave to wait for emergency workers to come to free him. When they did arrive they made Carson leave in case more of the ceiling fell down around them. Outside on the sidewalk he paced back and forth unable to keep still.

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After what felt like an eternity the rescue workers emerged carrying a body on a stretcher. Carson’s heart thudded to a stop thinking his love was gone. He moved forward on feet he couldn’t feel as paramedics buzzed around the stretcher. A part of his brain that was functioning kept saying Britland couldn’t be dead if so many working to save him. He just wouldn’t believe it until he saw for himself.

He tried to follow Britland into the waiting ambulance but someone put a hand out stopping him. “Not so fast” someone spoke harshly in his ear.

“I have to be with him” he protested eyes drawn to the drama going on inside the ambulance.

“Husband?” the man smirked.

“Boyfriend” he corrected automatically as the doors closed blocking his view.

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“Only family can ride with the victim” the man informed him “you can follow him to the hospital.”

“I have to go with him” Carson took several steps forward “he doesn’t have anyone else.”

“No living relatives?”

“Not living around here” he replied as shock prompted him to say the truth unable to formulate a good enough lie.

“Rules are rules” the man pushed him back determined to block his path as an officer approached.

“Mr Ratcliff if you come with me I’ll take you to the hospital.”

Taking a step back Carson nodded his eyes following the ambulance as it merged with traffic, lights and sirens on.

***

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Carson stayed at the hospital hoping someone would tell him something about Britland’s condition. No matter who he spoke with he was told the same thing. Patient confidentiality. Only family. Blah blah blah. Not even Felix could persuade the nurses into talking. All they knew at this point was Britland was in critical condition.

Turning to Felix, Carson could see his own anguish mirrored back at him. It was the first time he could see what this friendship meant to the little pipsqueak. “Do you have the phone number to Britland’s parents” he asked.

Scrolling through his contact list Felix shook his head. “I’ve never called them. I’ve only ever called Britland. I never thought I’d need his parents numbers. I might have Ariel’s number….”

“Let’s not freak out his little sister” Carson shook his head “I’ll go back to the apartment to see if Britland has their numbers written down somewhere.”

“Why not just check his phone” Felix asked.

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“Wish we could but his phone is in his locker at the studio. The police aren’t letting anyone in until they’re finished with their investigation.” Carson ran a hand through his long hair. He could feel the frustration rising inside him.

“You have your phone” Felix pointed out.

“I had it on me” he explained rolling his eyes as he felt his patience slipping.

“Not modeling today” Felix couldn’t quite keep the smugness from his voice.

Carson’s hands bunched as if he wanted to hit something. Instead he stalked off to glare out a nearby window. A slim blue haired girl came to stand beside him after whispering something in Felix’s ear. To Carson’s relief Felix backed off sitting down in one of the uncomfortable chairs in the room. A moment later a gentle touch on his hand-made him look down into a pair of sad green eyes.

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“Please just ignore him. He’s feeling out of control not know how Britland is doing” she explained gazing up at him.

“Don’t you think I know that” Carson spat regretting the harshness in his tone when the girl jumped. “I’m sorry I know he’s as worried about Britland. So am I. I just feel so useless….”

“Felix feels the same” she looked across the room “for Britland’s sake don’t you think it’s time you put aside your petty differences?”

Carson nodded. It wouldn’t do any good to take his anger and frustration out on Felix. Neither of them would feel any better nor would they get any answers to their questions. “I think I’m going back to the apartment to search for phone numbers. At least I’ll feel like I’m doing something.”

***

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Carson felt like he was invading Britland’s privacy going through the blonde’s things without him there. He found things he hadn’t imagined Britland would keep as mementos of their outings together. He wasn’t exactly sure if he should call them dates since they hadn’t become official until they kissed in the park. One item that struck his heartstrings was an old pizza box. He had written a brief but awful poem on it using crayons some kid had left on a dirty table next to them. He thought the box, along with the poem, was lying in some rubbish bin long forgotten not here among Britland’s prized keepsakes.

Carefully he set it aside. He pulled out a small pile of letters neatly bound together by rubber bands. He hoped he might find an address or something written on them that he could do a white page search. He opened one then another. His dismay growing as he continued to sift through them. Was this what Britland had been hiding from him all this time? Every time he asked what was wrong Britland would shake his head mumbling nothing. Were these letters somehow connected to what happened at the studio? He shivered just thinking about it.

What should he do? Should he tell the police? His family? Grimly he weighed his options. He barely noticed his phone ringing. In a daze he answered it “hello” he mumbled. He listened for a moment before saying “great” sounding more enthusiastic than he felt. “Do you think I can get Britland’s things from his locker too? I need his phone to call his family.” He listened some more “ok I’ll be there in a few.” He put everything away except for the letters. He’d keep them until he figured out what to do.

Chapter 8 – Visitors From Home /

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Britland – Chapter 8 – Visitors From Home

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Miranda walked around the room. Disapproval in the frown she gave her husband. Rob walked over to her, took her hand in his. “What are they doing with a bar” she demanded her voice loud enough for the boys to hear. “They’re not old enough to drink yet.”

Carson could feel her disapproving gaze upon him. His eyes sought out Britland who looked miserable. He cleared his throat ready to deflect the mother’s disapproval to himself when to his surprise Felix spoke up.

“It’s mine” he announced “my dad had an interior designer come before we moved in.” He shrugged “I may have led them to believe we were over twenty-one.”

Miranda nodded staring at the bar. “That explain why you have a bar but not why it’s fully stocked.”

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“Well…” Felix hung is head staring steadily at the floor.

“Mom” Britland cried “what difference does it make? We’re all adults here.”

“Son” Rob patted his wife’s hands “you shouldn’t have alcohol at all. It’s not a matter of being an adult. You’re not old enough to drink.”

“You could get into serious trouble young man for supplying alcohol to underage kids” Miranda snapped at Carson

“Hey” Britland gripped Carson’s shoulder “just because he’s the only one of age doesn’t mean he’s the one buying it. For all you know I could have a fake ID.” His voice quivered remembering the first time he had used it. The night he met Carson.

Rob held his hand out “hand it over.” His voice was firm and authoritative.

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Reaching into his back pocket for his wallet Britland searched for the ID. He hadn’t wanted it when Felix gave it to him. Now he’d do anything to keep it if only to prove a point to his parents. He caught the grateful look Felix was giving him and sighed. No matter what he couldn’t let Felix or Carson be the fall guy in this. He should have realized his parents would disapprove of them having the bar in their apartment. It would do no good to tell them he never drank but the one time. He walked the short distance towards his parents. “It’s not what you think” he mumbled handing his dad his fake ID card.

Taking the card Rob snapped it in half. “I hope not son.”

Miranda took several bottles from the bar and walked towards the kitchen. “Mrs. Olivia you can’t just dump it out” Felix protested.

“Are you saying this alcohol is your?” she asked setting the bottles on the counter.

“Err” he sucked in his breath. If he admitted it was his he’d have a visit from his parents. “Maybe Carson minds” he stood with his back stiff refusing to look at the purple haired male.

Carson raised an eyebrow smirking a little as he said “nope I don’t mind at all.” He chuckled a little at the low moan that escaped Felix’s closed grim lips.

***

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An hour later Felix stood staring at the bare floor boards where his bar once stood. He should have moved it to his room before Britland’s family came. He knew they were strict but hadn’t realized to what extent. He curled his fingers into fists as he stared at the empty space. He wanted to scream or cry. Something to give vent to this heavy hollow feeling in his chest.

He stomped his feet feeling like he was four years old again. The preschool teacher found his candy stash. He smiled as he remembered trying to shove the bag into Britland’s hands. The blonde cried all the way to the front of the classroom where the teacher ordered him to throw the sweet treats into the trash can. He would always remember the wide-eyed horror-stricken expression on Britland’s face as he complied. That had been the last straw. Felix smiled as he remembered throwing himself on the floor, arms and legs thrashing wildly around. Screaming like someone was killing him. The teacher ordering him to stop that quickly turned into pleas but nothing worked. At least nothing until his parents arrived. The low rumble of his father’s disapproving voice cut his screams down to a whimper than intermittent sniffles. It had been the last time his parents came to one of his tantrums.

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He always envied Britland. His parents cared what happened to him. He didn’t have to do anything to get their attention. They were at every school function while he scanned the audience in a futile hope of seeing one or both of his parents. Britland’s parents never failed to commend him or applaud his accomplishments. He felt an unusual pang in his chest like he had let them down. He never felt that way about his parents. He didn’t much care for the feeling.

Turning he headed for the door. He needed to go out. He needed something to distract himself from this hollow feeling. He didn’t feel regret. He laughed at people who did. He…needed a drink. A few hours of carefree fun. Something that he didn’t require him to think. Only two things that helped quiet his mind in situations like this, alcohol and sex.

He left the apartment keeping his head down while he waited for the elevator. The last thing he needed was to run across the sex crazed lady across the hall. She had broken up with her significant other and had been clingy and needy. As soon as the elevator doors opened he walked in bumping into the Crystal on her way out. “Excuse me” he mumbled reaching out to steady her.

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She looked him up and down “are you alright?” she asked.

Dropping his hands to his sides “fine” he mumbled stepping aside to allow her past.

“I haven’t seen you around a lot lately” her cheeks reddened “not that I’ve noticed. I mean….” she snapped her mouth shut remembering the last time she had seen him he looked like he had spent the night inside a dumpster.

Shoving his hands in his pockets he avoided her eyes. “Been busy” he muttered stepping into the closing elevator doors. He could see the perplexed hurt in her eyes. He hung his head feeling drained. She was better off not getting involved with him. He wasn’t good for her.

***

“You like him” Miranda smiled up at her son

Britland stopped on the path they were walking along. He gazed into the distance “I…don’t know” he mumbled not ready to admit it even to himself.

Taking his hand she guided him to a bench “are you afraid your Dad and I won’t approve?”

“It’s not that” he protested with definite shake of his head. “We’re just friends.”

She rolled her eyes at him “I’m not blind. I’ve seen the way he looks at you.” She squeezed his hand “I am concerned though.”

“Mom” he leaned away from her “don’t.”

“Don’t what” she demanded blinking “he’s quit a bit older than you.”

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“He’s twenty-two” he sat up “that’s not too old.”

“Four years” she pointed out “he’s a lot more experienced than you. He can…”

“Drink” Britland stood up and walked a short distance away. “Is that what you’re worried about? That he’ll turn me into an alcoholic?”

“He did purchase all that alcohol” Miranda said “he’s not a good influence on you or Felix.”

“That’s not true” he objected “Felix is the bad influence not him.”

“You shouldn’t let him interfere with your relationship with Felix” Miranda persisted “you’ve been best friends since preschool.”

“I know mom” he crossed his arms “Felix isn’t who you think he is.”

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“Felix is a good boy” she insisted “we’ve known him since you and he were little.” Her eyes took on a far away look as if she were seeing two little four-year old boys giggling in front of her.

“I know mom but” he didn’t want to throw his best friend beneath the bus but he didn’t want Carson there either. While he dithered in a state of uncertainty his mom was already onto the next thing.

“I always kind of hoped you and Felix would get together.” She glanced up at him to see how her words affected him.

“Mom” he gasped “don’t even go there. Felix and I that’s just … gross.”

“You and Felix have always had a special bond” she continued.

“You’re not listening” Britland could feel his frustration level rising “we’re friends. Nothing more. That’s it. Don’t make it into something it’s not.”

“I’m not” she protested disappointment heavy in her words. “Are you sure Felix is into girls? He hasn’t had one over the entire time we’ve been here.”

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“You’ve only been here a day” Britland pointed out “he’s never had one steady girl. He has hook ups. A lot of hook ups.”

“Oh” she blinked looking away.

“Sorry” he felt impelled to say something even though he really didn’t know why.

“It’s not your fault” Miranda put a hand to his cheek “you love who you love. I know that better than anyone.”

“So you’re not disappointed…”

“Maybe a little” she laughed “I had so many hopes for little green-skinned pinked haired grandchildren. I suppose now” she looked over her shoulder towards her husband and Carson, “I’ll have to settle for purple instead.”

“Mom” he protested his cheeks burning as he watched his Dad and Carson turn towards them and wave.

***

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Carson lifted a hand to wave at mother and son. He hoped they’d be joining them. He had the uncomfortable feeling that he was about to be interrogated by Britland’s Dad.

“You like my son” Rob nodded towards his wife and son before turning and inviting Carson to follow him.

Short of being rude Carson followed “we’re only friends.” His voice was gruff like he hadn’t drunk anything for days.

“Uh huh” Rob gave him an appraising once over before saying “that’s not what I meant. I’ve seen the way you look at him when you think no one else is looking.”

“I assure you I only have the best of intentions towards your son” he stammered. His eyes darted around as if he feared a trap.

“Relax” Rob advised “I’m not going to read you the riot act or give you the standard Dad speech. I am however concerned for whoever you and Britland are covering for.”

He moved his shoulders up in a small shrug. He kicked at a tuft of grass with his toes. “If it makes a difference I never go to clubs or bars when I’m out with Britland.” He could feel his cheeks burning as his words dribbled from his mouth. Why had he felt impelled to say that? It’d only reinforce the idea that he liked Britland for more than a friend. He did but that didn’t matter if Britland didn’t reciprocate his feelings.

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“If you feel that way towards my son. Why don’t you tell him” Rob asked dropping the other subject in favor of this. “Life is short. Too short to let opportunities pass you by. I know my son. He’ll dither in the realms of indecision until your both old and gray before he makes a move.”

Carson grunted “I don’t want to come on too strong…”

“Just be honest” Rob advised “his mother and I weren’t happy with his decision to move here or his choice to become a model. I’m still not sure it’s the right one for him. He’s old enough to make his own decisions so he has to come to that realization himself. I’ll support him no matter what. It’s his life. If you want to be a part of that life you have to step up and make a move.”

Carson swallowed. He never expected Britland’s father to advise him on his love life. Most of the time father’s want to protect their children from would be lovers. “I…” he licked his lips “what if he doesn’t feel the same?”

Looking over his shoulder Rob chuckled. “Britland gives you the same look his mother used to give me. It’s all in their eyes even if they don’t know it themselves.” He turned back to face the young man beside him. “Trust me. He likes you. I wouldn’t tell you that if I didn’t think you felt the same way.” He turned to walk back towards his son and wife. “If you hurt him I’ll tell my Dad. He’s a retired detective who still has many contacts in the Bridgeport police department. They’ll make your life miserable.”

“Yes sir. I mean so sir. I…” Carson swallowed more shook up than he cared to admit. “I won’t sir. I won’t hurt him”

“That’s all I ask” Rob smiled easily up at him “that’s all I wanted to hear.”

***

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“Did you talk to him” Miranda asked leaning into him.

“I did” he kissed her cheek “he loves our son.” He felt her pull away from him. She walked a short distance away “what’s wrong?”

“Is he good enough for him” she asked turning in his harms. Leaning her cheek upon his chest listening to his steady heart beat “what about all the drinking?”

Tilting her chin up he smiled into her eyes. “Carson will take care of our boy. He won’t let him do anything crazy.”

“How can you be so sure” she demanded “Britland is too young and inexperienced. Carson’s older and can lure him into all sorts of things.”

“You worry too much” he leaned forward kissing a soft kiss on her forehead. “Do you trust our son?”

“Yes” was the ready answer despite the flash of doubt in her eyes. “I want to. I really really want to.” She sighed wrapping her arms around his waist “he’s all alone in this city, modeling and now this…”

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“We raised him to be able to make his own decision” Rob pulled her closer “we raised him to know right from wrong. He’ll make good decisions. He’s not perfect. He’ll make mistakes.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of” she cried “what if all of this is just one big mistake? What if he gets hurt?”

“Then we’ll be there to help pick up the pieces” Rob laughed thinking of the threat he made Carson.

“What” Miranda demanded looking up at him “what’s so funny?”

“Oh I just told Carson if he hurt our son my Dad would sick the police on him” his eyes twinkled with mischief. “I felt like the bad ass father putting the fear into the guy her dared to date his daughter only it was my son.”

“Good” she laughed with him more at ease now than she was before.

***

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They walked side by side along the path. Carson’s shoulder’s occasionally bumping into Britland. The sky was turning colors as the sun began to set. Glancing over at his companion Carson said “I really like your parents.”

Britland gave him a curious look “you do?”

“What’s so surprising about that” he demanded his voice low as if he were afraid of being overheard.

Sighing Britland looked at his shoes “Mom thinks you’re a bad influence on me and Felix….all that alcohol.”

“Doesn’t matter” Carson took his hand and squeezed it “your parents love you. Do you know how much I envy you that?”

As he spoke he turned his face away. Moved Britland put a hand up to wipe away the glittering tears from Carson’s cheeks. “I’m sorry. Your parents should be ashamed of themselves for the way they treat you.”

“Thank you” he mumbled blinking to get the steady flow of tears under control. His chest was tight and heavy.

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“I’m sorry” Britland pulled Carson close rubbing his hand in small circles over his back “I shouldn’t have brought them up.”

“You didn’t. I did” Carson sniffed taking a step back his long hair sticking to his face where his tears hadn’t dried yet. “I was thinking of your dad. He warned me if I hurt you his Dad would contact his connections in the police department.”

“Better be careful then” Britland advised “Grandpa can be a pretty intimidating.” He looked at Carson touching his long hair tucked behind his pointy ear. “Did you ever find out what happened to your brother?” He asked hoping he wasn’t going to upset him again.

Shaking his head Carson drew in a shaky breath. “I told you all I knew. It’s so long ago…” He walked away as if distance could ease his mind.

“I wonder…” Britland smiled as an idea came to him. He could ask his Grandpa to look into the old case or ask someone else to do it for him. He knew it would ease the pain Carson was in. Knowing was better than not knowing. For now he decided to keep it to himself. He didn’t want to raise Carson’s hopes for no reason.

“There’s something I want to say to you” they both said at once. “You first” they said in unison.

Laughing Carson shook his head “why don’t you go first” he suggested.

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“No you go first” he shook his head glad for the reprieve.

“Ok” Carson took a deep breath as if he needed fortification. Looking across the park he saw Britland’s parents walking hand in hand a picture of what love was meant to be. A soft sweet smile spread across his face as he turned to face Britland. “I like you” he blurted out forgetting the rehearsed speech he had planned on saying.

“Do you mean I like like you or” Britland took a hesitant step forward eyes glued on Carson’s face amazed at how red Carson’s face was becoming “like you as you’re my best friend.”

“I like like you” he took a gulp closing the gap between them “like I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with you.”

Britland ran his hands up to Carson’s face caressing it between his hands. “We can fall together” he offered feeling the heat rise to his cheeks.

“Does that” Carson leaned in close his breath caressing Britland’s skin as he tilted his face up to meet his. Softly Carson brushed his lips across the blonde’s, leaving them both wanting more. “Does that mean you like me too?”

Moaning in response Britland pressed in closer bumping his nose into Carson’s in his clumsy inexperienced way. “Sssorry” he mumbled eyes wide with worry as Carson brought a hand up to cover his face. “Did I hurt you?”

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Carson’s shoulder’s shook as he shook his head, hand clamped over his nose. He let Britland pry his hand away. Smiling as his hand revealed he was alright. Britland’s cheeks turned emerald-green. Carson ran his index finger along Britland’s jaw line “I love this color on you” he tilted Britland’s chin up. Staring down into the blonde’s half closed eyes, his long eyelashes framing his green eyes. His breaths were blowing across his skin in rapid pulses in sync with the beating of his heart.

“Kiss me already” Britland pleaded when he couldn’t take the suspense any longer. The longing was heightened by the earlier feathery touch of Carson’s lips across his. His rapid heart beat emphasized his desire for more. All his senses were on fire. Centered on the man holding his face between his hands. Everything seemed to have slowed down to a miserable crawl then everything came to life. His entire body felt like it was on fire as electricity pulsed through it as Carson leaned in and gave him what he wanted. The kiss. His first kiss. One moment he was floating the next he was crashing down to earth. Then floating again. It was strange and wonderful leaving him with a feeling that he had found the place where he belonged.

Chapter 7 – Maybe He Does / Chapter 9 – Turning Point

Britland – Chapter 7 – Maybe He Does

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Carson clutched at Britland’s wrist when he moved to follow Felix. He shook his head disapproval in the set of his jaw line. “Don’t” he cautioned as Britland jerked his arm free.

Ignoring him Britland followed Felix down the hall to his room. “Felix” he sounded as timid and unsure as he felt.

“Leave me alone” Felix grumbled slamming the door shut in the blonde’s face.

Indecision had him frozen in place. He hated confrontations. Something wasn’t right. Felix was his oldest friend. He couldn’t just stand by while he hurt himself. He grabbed the door knob intent on following Felix. Then he hesitated wondering if he should at least knock first. If he did that than Felix could ignore him. Taking a deep breath he turned the knob. Heart beating fast like he expected to find something horrible on the other side of the door. “Felix” he called as he stepped inside.

Felix stood with his back to the door “I said leave me alone.”

Britland closed the door firmly behind him. Leaned against it “I heard you.”

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“Then what are you still doing here” Felix demanded “did you come here to say I told you so? I don’t want to hear it.”

His nose scrunched up in distaste as the stale smell of garbage and beer that had soaked into Felix’s clothes. Britland sat on the floor leaning his back against the door. “Do you remember what you used to tell me when we were in school?”

“Is there a point to this” Felix growled moving towards the window. He lifted it, letting in the cool morning air a welcome relief to the stench his nose had become numb to.

“What the hell” Britland scrambled to his feet “get back in here.” He hurried towards the window that Felix had crawled out of. Reaching the window he poked his head out. The wind took his hair blowing it in multiple directions at once. “Get in here before you fall” his voice was high and squeaky.

Felix shook his head a wide grin on his face. “This is awesome” he yelled the wind whipping his voice away.

“You’re crazy” Britland shouted back looking down he swallowed.

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“You’ll catch me” Felix scooted further out on the edge “you’d never let me fall.”

The utter faith Felix had in him left him feeling like a cold damp blanket had been thrown over his face. Cloying and suffocating. “Felix get back in here or I’ll…” he stopped not sure what the or else was.

As if reading Britland’s mind Felix glanced over at him. “I remember what I used to tell you in school when all the kids were teasing you.” There was a gleam in his eyes as he spoke. “I told you I’d always be there for you and I was.” He shifted his position to side on the ledge. His legs swinging out in front of him. “It’s different now. Everything has changed.”

Britland heard the melancholy in his friend’s voice. “I’m still here. Still your friend.” He pulled himself into the window leaning out to extend his reach in case Felix decided to do something even stupider then sit on the ledge of a tall building several hundred feet in the air.

“No” Felix shook his head “you don’t need me anymore.”

“Don’t be stupid” Britland protested “of course I need you. You’re my best friend.”

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“No” Felix leaned over the edge. He smiled feeling Britland clutch desperately to him. “You have Carson. You don’t need me.”

“I can have more than one friend” Britland clung to Felix with one hand afraid his friend would become unbalanced and topple over the edge. The other hand he grasped the window sill. He closed his eyes. He hated heights. “Remember when we were kids and we’d climb trees?”

Felix grunted “more like I climbed and you watched.”

“Yeah well” he shrugged “after being stuck for hours up one I kind of learned not to climb them anymore.”

Felix leaned his head back laughing. “I forgot. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry” Britland exclaimed “I spent hours waiting for someone to come get me. I thought I was going to have to sleep in that tree.”

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“Be glad your dad came looking for you” Felix smiled over at him “otherwise your skeleton might still be there.”

“Ha ha very funny,” Britland sighed “why don’t you be a pal and come inside?”

Felix gave him a curious look “you’re still not scared of heights are you?”

“Petrified” Britland kept his gaze trained on Felix’s face. Not the ground several feet below.

“I think I may need to have Carson come get you” Felix moved inching his way towards the window.

“Oh great I may be stuck out here all night” Britland grumbled.

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“When are you going to tell him you like him?” Felix asked as he approached the window.

“Why would I do that” Britland mumbled “he probably doesn’t even like me like that anyway.”

Felix was laughing so hard he bumped into Britland in the window. He knocked both of them onto the floor “you’re kidding right?”

“Get off me” Britland squirmed beneath him “you stink.”

“That’s what you get for not letting me shower” Felix made a point to rub Britland’s nose in his smelly armpit before rolling off him.

“Your so gross” Britland gasped as he sat up.

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“I’ll do it again if you continue to walk around wearing blinders.” Felix laughed at his friends baffled look. “What? Are you honestly going to tell me you don’t see the way he looks at you?”

Britland leaned his chin on his knee staring at the floor. “He doesn’t look at me any differently then he looks at anyone else.”

“You really don’t see it do you” Felix looked at him in wonder.

“What am I supposed to be seeing that I’m not?” Britland demanded.

Tapping his fingers along his chin Felix sighed “you know that look your mom gives your dad?”

“Yeah” Britland nodded smiling “like my dad’s the only person in the world.”

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“Uh huh” Felix slapped Britland hard across the back “you told me once that’s the way you wanted someone to look at you like.”

“Yeah” he nodded sniffling not ready to admit to himself yet.

“Well that’s the way Carson looks at you. You’re missing it wearing those blinders.” Felix shoved him almost knocking him over. “Stop worrying about me. Go out there and tell him you feel the same way.”

“Does he really?” Britland asked “I….” his voice faded.

“What?” Felix demanded.

“Nothing” Britland shook his head “I didn’t think he saw me as anything other than a little brother or something.”

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“Trust me that’s not the look anyone gives their brother” he ducked when Britland threw a shoe at him.

“Careful those are hundred-dollar shoes” he protested the mistreatment of his things.

“Who wears hundred-dollar shoes” Britland asked letting the other shoe fall to the floor.

“Not everyone shops at Payless” Felix mumbled inspecting his shoes for scuff marks.

“You should be more concerned about yourself than your shoes” Britland advised getting to his feet.

“I have you to point me down the straight and narrow” Felix grumbled standing up too.

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“You don’t listen” Britland walked towards the door.

“You’re not going to stop trying though are you?” the desperation in Felix’s voice made Britland stop at the door and turn around. “What do you think” he asked.

His bony shoulders rose to his ears “I don’t know.” He looked up his eyes had a moist look to them “maybe I’m a lost cause.”

“Never” Britland assured him opening the door after seeing the relieved look in his friends eyes. “Take a bath” he ordered before leaving “you stink.”

***

226

“You talk some sense into him” Carson inquired looking up from sorting the mail.

“I hope so” he looked around the tidy kitchen “thanks for cleaning up.”

“I had nothing better to do” he mumbled waving off his thanks “you have a letter.” Carson picked up the white envelope noting it had no return address.

Britland felt his heart plummet to the ground several hundred feet below them. It had been months since he had received a letter or even a call. He had hoped it was over. Whoever it was had gotten bored. Gingerly he took the envelope from Carson’s hand. Tossing it from hand to hand wondering if he should open it or just toss it.

“Is something wrong?” Carson asked watching him for several minute aimlessly tossing the letter from hand to hand.

“What?” Britland looked at him confused.

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Pointing to the letter “bad news?”

“Um” he glanced at his name and address. The writing as familiar as his own. “I don’t know” he confessed.

“Maybe you should open it and find out” Carson suggested.

“I’ll…do it later” Britland folded the sealed envelope into his back pocket.

“If you say so” Carson shrugged. He could tell something was off but he knew he wasn’t going to get anything out of Britland until he was ready tell him. “Did you tell Felix your parents are coming to visit next weekend?”

“Ah shit I forgot” he ran a hand through his hair “I’ll have to tell him later.”

“What did you do in there all this time?” Carson asked more for something to say than any real interest.

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“Mostly I had to talk him in from the ledge” Britland tossed out nonchalantly.

“No shit” Carson exclaimed “he looked messed up when he came in but I didn’t think he was that bad.” He snapped his mouth shut before adding “does he need help? I mean is he alright? Can I do anything?”

“What? No” Britland shook his head “he’s fine”

“If he’s depressed we should get him some help” Carson insisted “I may not like the guy but I don’t want anything to happen to him.”

“He’s fine” Britland insisted “he didn’t go out there because he wanted to jump. It was more for the thrill of it and to scare me shitless.” He saw the hardening around Carson’s eyes “don’t get mad. He does need help. I just haven’t figured out what help yet.”

“Besides mental help?” Carson snapped.

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“Don’t” Britland shook his head “you promised you wouldn’t keep poking at him.”

“Fine” he held his hands up “I’m sorry.”

“Apology accepted” Britland glanced at the time “what time do we need to be at the beach?”

“Ten” Carson said following his gaze to the clock “I hadn’t realized it was getting so late.”

“We’re going to be late” Britland moved towards the door.

Chuckling a little Carson followed pressing the elevator button. “You’re the golden boy. They’ll wait for you.”

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Britland gave him a sideways glare “don’t call me that” he snapped.

“Kinda touchy this morning” Carson mutter under his breath.

“I’m going to take the stairs” Britland announced moving away from the elevator.

“Suit yourself” Carson mumbled his mood darkening. He should have accompanied Britland into Felix’s room. The pink haired dinomo had to have said or done something to make the blonde this upset. All Felix’s snide comments about them being more than friends probably.

Carson slipped into the elevator as the doors opened. He almost called after Britland who had just entered the stairwell. Shrugging he leaned against the arm rail. Doubts swept through him leaving him with a hollow feeling inside. Britland seemed to respond to his occasional flirts he didn’t seem to be that into him. If it weren’t for that bashful exterior Carson would have been sure he had no effect on the blonde what so ever. Maybe he needed to be more assertive. If he did that he was positive it would only make Britland even more skittish than he already was.

He exited the elevator. Glancing around he couldn’t find Britland anywhere. Not surprising really. Britland was a lightweight when it came to exertion. He was probably thinking he was going to die somewhere in the stairwell. He moved towards the door. Stopping as a thought occurred to him. What was in that letter? He hadn’t wanted to read it in front of him and he hadn’t started acting strange until after he received it?

***

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Britland skipped down the stairs intent on reaching the bottom first. Two flights down he had to stop. Leaning against the railing his chest heaving he gulped for air. Maybe he should have waited for the elevator or maybe take it the rest of the way down. He might have done just that if it weren’t for the gloating look in Carson’s eyes telling him he should take him up on his offer to train together at the gym. Probably not a bad idea considering how he felt at the moment. He was sure he was going to pass out any moment.

He forced himself down another flight of stairs. Groaning as he passed the floor number he realized he still had two flights to go. Worst idea of bad ideas. Well maybe not the worst he amended as his thoughts went to the sealed envelope in his back pocket. He took it out wondering what was inside it.

The next flight he sat down on the steps feeling as if he were made of rubber and his chest labored for air. He definitely needed to take Carson up on his fitness offer. He was more out of shape then he realized. It was all the Italian food Carson treated him to his Aunt’s restaurant.

He pulled the letter from his pocket. Ripped it open. The neatly written words swam before him. Blinking he focused on the words.

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“This is your final warning alien spawn. Do not continue to ignore me. You will regret it. My patience won’t last forever. Quit. Now!!!!”

Alien spawn? He had been called many things but never that. Definitely not Felix. He had long ago stopped believing it was him anyway. This only served to deepen that belief. But who could it be? He didn’t know anyone who would hate him so much.

“Britland” Carson’s voice from below calling his name shook him from his daze.

“I’m coming” he stood up shoving the letter into his back pocket where if felt hot and heavy. When he emerged from the stairwell he growled at Carson “don’t say it.”

“Say what” Carson’s lips twitched.

“That I should work out more” Britland snapped.

“Oh….that” Carson flagged down a taxi “you totally should. If you did, those ten flight of stairs wouldn’t have taken you so long.”

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“It didn’t take me that long” Britland mumbled crossing his arms “but I will anyway.”

“Will what” Carson asked gaping at him not quite believing his ears.

“Work out with you” Britland elaborated rolling his eyes.

Rubbing his hands together Carson laughed “I can’t wait. I’ll have you running up and down those ten flights like they were nothing.”

“Ugh” Britland moaned “I knew this was bad idea.”

“It’ll be fun” Carson nudged him with his shoulder “you’ll have fun.”

“Highly unlikely” Britland shook his head getting out of the cab. “Exercise is not what I call fun.”

“You’ll change your mind” Carson draped an arm across Britland’s shoulders as they walked towards the beach.

“Doubtful very doubtful” Britland mumbled.

“Don’t knock it until you try it” Carson grinned squeezing the blonde’s shoulders.

***

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A pair of swim trunks were tossed at them as they entered the changing area. “The water is going to be freezing” Britland observed.

“You probably won’t have to worry about that” one of the make up artists said.

Before he could wonder why he was shoved towards the stylist. “You should let me permanent style this mop.”

“What’s wrong with it” Britland asked his mind on what the make up artist said earlier.

“Hmm” the stylist began to work on him “its soft with a little wave. Lovely. The style is a little dated.”

Throwing caution the wind Britland closed his eyes “do whatever you want with it.”

“Really” the stylist asked his voice rising with excitement.

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Britland held his breath squeezing his eyes shut as the stylist began to snip at his hair. He hated getting his hair cut. He hated the sound the scissors made as they snipped at his hair. He could feel his neck and back tensing as his anxiety rose. No matter what he did he couldn’t control his reaction to the sound as the scissors did their job.

A few minutes later the stylist removed the cloth around his shoulders and blue across his bare shoulders to remove stray hairs from his skin. “All done” he announced with a flourish leaving no doubt he took pride in his work.

Nodding his thanks Britland wished he could be more enthusiastic. The stylist must have thought he was regretting the shortened hair as he made condolences. “It’ll grow back” Britland tried to laugh it off despite the naked vulnerable feeling he had as someone swept his hair from the floor.

He joined the others huddling together for warmth. Carson casually strolled over draping a warm arms across his shoulders. “I like it” he winked at him.

“Do you really” Britland asked as one of his hands went up to touch the newly shorn ends.

 

 

“Uh yeah” Carson moved to touch the blonde hair. His hand scraped across Britland’s cheek instead. “Gorgeous” he murmured. He leaned in close oblivious of the stares the other models were giving them. They jerked apart when someone called “Casanova bring lover boy and come here.”

They moved through the group to the accompaniment of snickers and whispers. Britland felt like melting into the sandy beach. If it weren’t for the hold Carson had on him, he might have run in the opposite direction.

“Ignore them” Carson whispered “let them talk. They’re only jealous.” He smiled gently at the confused desperate look Britland gave him. “We’re in this together. Just follow my lead.”

Nodding Britland somehow found himself wading into the frigid water. Something wrapped around his ankles. He jumped clinging to Carson as if something was about to eat him.

At the sound of Britland’s squeak and desperate grab Carson wrapped his arms around him. “Take it easy” he kept his voice calm, soothing.

“Something grabbed me” Britland squeaked looking down at the swirling water.

“It’s called seaweed” Carson chuckled “haven’t you ever been in the ocean before?”

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“Nnno” Britland stammered “sssorry. You can put me down now.”

“I kind of like you where you are” Carson smiled “it feels sorta right.”

“Put me down” Britland insisted all too aware of everyone staring at them.

“Pity” Carson stuck his bottom lip out “it won’t be so easy next time.”

“What’s that supposed to mean” he asked slipping into the water, arms still around Carson’s neck.

Carson lifted his broad shoulders shivering a little “If you join me at the gym you may get to heavy for me to lift.”

“Maybe I’ll be lifting you” Britland challenged unaware of the photographer taking pictures of their exchange.

Carson raised an eyebrow “doubtful very doubtful.”

Chapter 6 – Being Felix / Chapter 8 – Visitors From Home

Britland – Chapter 6 – Being Felix

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Britland walked into the apartment carrying several bags of groceries. He overheard the tail end of Felix’s conversation with his dad. “Dad please. I just need a little advancement…” Felix snapped his mouth shut when he noticed Britland. He rolled his eyes as if to indicate his dad was overreacting. “I know I asked for an advancement last month. I’m just a little short. Yes Britland pays his share of the rent. The other guy … well” he turned his back to Britland. “Yeah dad it won’t happen again. I’ll talk to him.”

Britland set his load down turned to face Felix “what won’t happen again?”

Shrugging Felix put his phone away “I just told him what he wanted to hear.”

By throwing Carson under the bus.” Britland knew things were bad between the two but to this extent he had no clue.

“So?” he jutted his jaw out figuratively drawing a line in the sand.

“Carson has never been late with the rent. He even pain your portion a few times and never asked to be repaid.” Britland stared at his friend “what’s going on Felix?”

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“Nothing’s going on” his eyes darted around the room looking everywhere but at Britland. “What’s the big deal? My dad doesn’t even know Carson. So what if he thinks he’s some kind of dead beat freeloader.”

“I care” the fierceness in his voice caused Felix to stare at him. “I’m sorry I ever asked him to come here. I should have asked first. That’s my fault not his. But you were the one who asked him to stay. He could have gotten a different place. You said you could use his help with the rent. Well actually you said I could use the help.”

“You’re blowing this all out of proportion” Felix scoffed “it’s not like we know him.”

“He’s my friend” Britland said as if that should be explanation enough.

“Ah” Felix smirked “the truth comes out.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Britland frowned feeling as if he had missed something.

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“He’s more than just a friend” Felix laughed “I bet he’s more like a friend with benefits.”

“No” Britland gasped “not everything revolves around sex.”

“Of course it does” Felix scoffed “just because you’re not getting any doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about it.”

Britland’s face radiated heat giving credence to his friends accusations. “Quit twisting everything I say. It still doesn’t give you the right to use Carson as your scapegoat.”

“Are you afraid it’ll get back to your parents?” Felix asked “haven’t you come out to them yet?”

“That’s not it” Britland protested “I don’t want them thinking bad of him before they even meet him.”

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“Oh” Felix’s eyes glittered with mischievous delight “you do like him.”

“He’s my friend” Britland stubbornly held on to that despite evidence to the contrary.

“Don’t worry so much” Felix advised “it’s not like my parents hang out with yours. They’ll never know. Be a pal why don’t ya?”

Britland had never been able to refuse Felix anything in the past; especially not when he was giving him the puppy dog look “I don’t like it. Find another way.”

“Yeah sure” Felix shrugged walking away “whatever.”

“Felix I mean it” Britland called after him.

***

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“That was interesting” Carson’s voice had the blonde jumping.

“How much did you hear?” he stammered eyes shifting from the floor to Carson’s face then back to the floor.

“Enough to know that I should leave” Carson’s voice was low with an undercurrent of anger in it “I should have a long time ago.”

Nodding Britland moved towards the kitchen to put the groceries away. “I’m sorry” he mumbled “Felix…well he’s Felix.” He shrugged not knowing what else to say. He had tried to explain why Felix was the way he was. If you didn’t know him no one could understand.

“You need to stop making excuses for him” Carson told him “he’s not worth it.”

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“He is to me” Britland blurted out. “He’s always had my back. He was there for me when all the kids were making fun of me. He stood up for me. Fought my battles when I was too scared to do it for myself.”

“I admire your loyalty I really do” Carson kept his voice low watching the blonde closely. “Where’s his loyalty to you? He’s changed. He’s not the person you knew.”

“He’s still me friend” Britland held on to that fact like a dog would it’s bone. Guarding it closely. “I don’t know what’s up but something definitely is.”

“Ok” Carson sighed knowing it was futile to argue further. “Would you at least consider moving out with me?” He asked after a few minutes of silence passed between them. He could tell by the tense muscles in Britland’s back that he’d refuse. “Forget it” he mumbled backing away from the blonde “forget I asked.”

Britland watched him walk away wishing there was something he could say to stop him. Groaning he turned away feeling very much torn in two. He wanted to please both men. Knowing all too well he was going to hurt one or the other of them. He hurried to put the rest of groceries away his mind troubled.

***

192

When he was finished Britland hovered outside Carson’s door. After a few minutes he lifted his hand to knock softly on the smooth wood surface a part of him hoping the occupant within would tell him to go away. Instead the door opened a crack and Carson demanded “what do you want?”

“Can we talk?” he asked

“I’m busy” Carson mumbled.

“Please” Britland entreated him. He could see the indecision in Carson’s lavender eyes. The softening of the lines around his eyes as he opened the door allowing him inside. “Thank you” he murmured as he walked past into the room beyond. His eyes grew large and round as he saw the clothes piled high on the bed in various stages of packing.

Carson shrugged at Britland’s unasked question “I can’t stay.”

“And I can’t go” Britland could feel a heaviness fall over his chest like something was pressing in upon him squeezing his lungs.

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“So you say” Carson shrugged carefully folding a shirt and placing it in a bag.

Grabbing the shirt from Carson had just picked Britland growled “you don’t understand.”
Astonished Carson glared at the blond. It was unusual to see Britland so worked up.

“Why don’t you explain it to me? I don’t understand.”

Britland nodded twisting the shirt between his hands before tossing it aside. “I know most people see Felix and think he’s a jerk.”

“A womanizing jerk” Carson amended “but you don’t. You see something different.”

“Right” He sat on the floor drained of all energy “I see someone who needs help. Someone who is crying out for help. For someone to see through the facade and like him anyway.”

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“Wow” Carson mumbled sitting beside him on the floor “I just see a jerk.”

“I know” Britland acknowledged “he used to throw full on temper tantrums when we were in preschool together. Anything to get his parents to come to the school. Eventually his parents stopped coming. Couldn’t be bothered.”

“So you think he’s trying to get his parents attention?” Carson asked disbelief clear in his voice and the way he looked at Britland.

“Makes sense doesn’t it?” Britland enthused “the only time his parents call him is when he needs something. It’s like the more they pay the more they love him.”

“If you say so” Carson snorted “it doesn’t make sense to me.”

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“It’s like this” Britland sighed trying to express what he knew for years. “Money is something tangible. Felix can see it. Feel it. Count it. He’s never been able to see his parents love for him through their actions; especially not when they stopped reacting to his tantrums, his lies, his outrageous behavior. Felix is good at pushing buttons and getting people to notice him. Everyone except his parents. Now the only time he gets their attention is when he needs money.”

“The constant flow of women” Carson nodded “I guess it does make sense.”

“Felix actively discourages commitment while at the same time wanting to feel loved and desirable.” Britland shook his head “he doesn’t want to commit and become his parents. The whole thing scares him.”

“He wants to be loved but doesn’t want the commitment that goes along with it” he shook his head “I don’t get it.”

“Neither does he” Britland leaned into him “it leaves him feeling hollow. He doesn’t know how to change the cycle he’s in. If I leave him like everyone else has it’ll only confirm to him that he’s as unlovable as he thinks he is.”

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“There comes a time when enough is enough” Carson said making sure he held eye contact with Britland.

“You think I’ve already gone beyond that point” Britland shook his head “I don’t. I know he’s pushing my buttons trying to get me to leave. He’s trying to prove a point to himself that everyone leaves him sooner or later.”

“So you’re just going to put up with his shit?” Carson grumbled “I don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to” Britland sighed “it’s important that you understand why I can’t just leave him. He’s my friend. He’s hurting and needs help.”

“You’re really too good to him” Carson stood up “I’ll ride it out with you. I can’t leave you anymore than you can leave him.”

***

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Felix could hear low rumble of voices coming from the room next to his. He knew they were talking about him. No doubt Britland was trying to convince Carson to stay. Felix turned his back to the wall. He knew he shouldn’t have told his dad Carson was the reason he wasn’t able to meet his bills. He knew Britland wouldn’t go along with the harmless little white lie. He wanted to gloat that he had finally made the interloper leave. He had heard the drawers open and close. He had even allowed himself a satisfying laugh at the thought of Carson throwing his clothes into bags.

That was until he started to think about how this would affect Britland. He wasn’t blind to the way Britland looked at the long-haired hippie. Puppy love? Crush? Maybe. Felix refused to believe it could be love. True love only happened in the movies. He wanted to believe Britland would thank him late for breaking them up. It would open the blonde’s eyes to the harsher realities of life.

He groaned out loud. His stomach felt queasy getting worse the more he thought about what he had done. Guilt maybe. It wasn’t something he felt often. There were only a few times he had ever felt that way and they were centered around two people, Britland and Crystal. Their gentle reproach and concern he could see in their eyes made him feel like he were two feet high. He didn’t deserve them in his life. Why didn’t they just leave him like everyone else?

Frustrated he sat up unable to take the low murmurs next door. He glancing at the time he knew he had just enough time to change and arrive at the club as it opened. Maybe tonight was his lucky night. He pulled his wallet out, counted his money. He had enough for a couple of games maybe more if he managed to win. He ignored the nagging voice in his head telling him that this was a bad idea. The money should go to paying his bills. Shoving his wallet into his pocket he needed something to fill this void inside himself. His dad hadn’t failed to bail him out yet. He knew he’d be flush with cash by the end of the week.

He threw his shirt aside as he hastily changed. his heart beat increased as he imagined what the night had in store for him.This was better than staying home feeling guilty. He was a jerk. Why should he pretend to be anything else?

***

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Felix breezed through the club entrance like he owned the place. He liked that feeling of being the big man on campus. He made a beeline towards the bar, several heads swiveled to follow him. “Hello pup” an older woman purred.

Felix smiled back taking in the perfectly styled hair. The caked on makeup that did little to hide the wrinkles around her eyes. The bright red lips the left marks on every surface they touched. “Not tonight” he smirked coyly at her leaving the impression he’d be game if he struck out on someone younger, prettier.

“Come back when you want a quality ride” she winked at him crossing her legs to maximum effect.

Chuckling a little he waved down the bar tender. He placed an order all too aware of the woman’s lustful gaze. It was a game. The woman was obviously looking for an easy romp in the sack. He didn’t want any complications so he just might be leaving with her before the night was over. Crystal’s face came to mind making him shake his head to free it of her presence. Crystal was different. When he was around her he wanted to be different. He wanted to be what she deserved.

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He gulped down the drink he held in his hand. Turning he found another drink in front of him. The bartender pointed towards the minx at the end of the bar. He raised the glass in appreciation before taking a drink. He walked towards the pool table where a game was in progress. “Winner” he declared holding up a hundred-dollar bill.

“Pipsqueak thinks he can beat Bobby” one of the girls said who was hanging around the tattooed men..

“I don’t only think I can. I know I can” he asserted causing several of the large burly men to laugh into their beers.

“Pinkie you’re welcome to try” a man said holding his hand out for the money “I haven’t lost a game ever.” He flexed his arms displaying his bulging muscles.

“There’s a first time for everything” Felix quipped undaunted.

“Bold” the man nodded in approval “I like it. Just don’t get cocky.” His voice was loaded with warning.

“I’ll show you cocky” Felix postured moving to set up the game.

“It’ll be a pleasure to teach you some humility son” the older man smirked.

***

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Several hours later Felix paid out his losses to the heavily tattooed man. Bleary eyed he slumped onto a bar stool where the middle-aged woman leaned over exposing her ample cleavage. “I know what will make you feel better” she whispered in his ear resting her hand in his lap.

“I bet you do” he slurred. The drunken haze he was in softened her face until she looked almost pretty.

Giving him a squeeze she got up sure he’d follow her. Frowning when all she got was a loud snore in response. “For crying out loud” she frowned at the young man with his face resting on the dirty bar. She turned away disgusted.

“Hey don’t leave your boy toy behind” the bartender shouted as she pushed open the exit door.

“He’s all yours” she raked her cold eyes over Felix stupefied form “he’s of no use to me like that.”

“Beggars can’t be chooser” the barman yelled.

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“I’m no beggar” the woman turned and her heels clicked on the cement disappearing as the door closed behind her.

The barman glanced at the pink haired boy face down on his sticky bar. “Stupid kid can’t hold his liqueur,” the man closed the down the bar cleaning around Felix. When he was finished he hoisted Felix over his shoulders and dumped behind the bar by the dumpster. “Maybe this will teach you a lesson” the man muttered walking away.

Shivering in the chilly morning air Felix woke up to the unpleasant aroma of rotting garbage and wet dog. He tried to brush away the enthusiastic tongue licking his face. Groaning he pushed the mangy mutt away as he staggered to his feet. Dog slobber rolled down his chin. Disgusted he used his shirt to wipe his face clean. “What the hell” he muttered tottering around in a circle “where am I?”

He went to glance at his watch only to find it gone. “Shit” he grumbled loudly to the annoyance of the local cats and dogs. A couple of rats scurried from the dumpster as he leaned against it holding his head. Fragments of the night came back to mind. The money he lost. All the drinks. The old lady propositioning him. Then nothing.

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Checking his pockets he found his watch was not the only thing missing. His wallet was gone as well. Not that it mattered. There was no cash in it and he had left his credit cards at home. His cell phone was his biggest worry. His whole life was in it. Kicking the dumpster he yelled his frustration into the night.

Pushing off from the dumpster he staggered towards the road hoping to flag down a taxi he’d use his dad’s account to pay for the ride. A car’s headlights lit him up against the dark alley He squinted as it slowed down and stopped. “Felix” a familiar voice said “is that you?”

He stopped stunned. He could have bluffed his way out of any situation but not with her. What did fate have against him that would bring her out this early in the morning? He shoved his hands into his pockets head bowed “Oh hey what brings you here?”

“I work the early shift at the restaurant this week” she said “get in.”

“It’s not that far” he refused “I can walk.”

“I’m not asking” she said pointing to the passenger seat “get in.”

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Short of running away Felix didn’t have many options. He shuffled around the car and got in. He was all too aware he smelled of stale beer, smoke, rotting garbage and wet dog. He slumped in the seat covering his face.

“I won’t ask how you got into this mess” she said making a u-turn “I do think you’re in trouble and need help.”

He made a noncommittal grunt letting her words bounce off him. He knew what he was doing. He wasn’t a kid. He was an adult who had a little too much to drink. He knew what he was doing. He wasn’t a kid. He was an adult who had a little too much to drink. There was nothing wrong with having a little fun. Letting loose. Distressing. It was everyone else who had the problem. “Thanks” he mumbled getting out of the car when they came to a stop in front of their building.

Crystal looked at him like she wanted to say something else. Shaking her head as if deciding it wasn’t worth it she gave him a brief wave before turning the care around and driving off.

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Felix watched her leave standing in the middle of the street until someone honked at him. He entered the apartment building hoping his roommates were still in bed as he wouldn’t have to the walk of shame in front of them. Crystals words echoed in his brain. Did he really need help? Sure he drank a lot, gambled a little too much, had sex with nameless faceless girls he could care less about. Did that mean he had a problem? He never thought so until now.

The elevator music made his head ache and his body feel like it was pummeled by a meat grinder. Maybe what he thought was normal really wasn’t especially if it left him feeling hollow inside. He didn’t know anymore and he was too tired to worry about it at the moment.

As he opened the door Carson and Britland looked up from their plates. He could see disdain in the way Carson glared at him and worry in Britland’s green eyes. He stared defiantly back at them. Challenging them to say something about his appearance. Neither one did which in itself was disappointing. Any reaction was better than this nothingness. He shuffled past them doing his best to imitate his best peacock strut all the while telling himself he didn’t care what they thought of him.

Chapter 5 – Heartache / Chapter 7 – Maybe He Does

Britland – Chapter 5 – Heartache

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Crystal moved to the far side of the elevator putting space between her the pink haired male. It had been an impulse to ask him what was wrong in the hallway. Here was so much pain in the depths of his eyes she wanted to help anyway she could. Now, alone in an elevator with him it didn’t seem like such a good idea. She knew his reputation as a prolific lady’s man. She wasn’t blind to the steady flow of women in and out of his apartment. She had no intention of becoming another one in his long stream of conquests.

She was somewhat shocked when he made no move to stand near her. He made no comments at all which was also odd considering how he never failed to make some kind of comment about her appearance or making an attempt to get inside her apartment. She wasn’t sure what to think about this somewhat awkward situation.

Felix hurried from the elevator as soon as the doors opened. He smiled over at Crystal who he had never gotten more than a pleasant hello and smile from despite all of his best efforts. Maybe he should have started off with a sob story. Shaking his had he shoved his hand into his pockets. He was doing his best to keep his promise to be good. This time he wanted to be the gentleman.

After walking in silence for almost a block Crystal glanced up at her companion. His eyes were shielded as if he wasn’t sure of himself in a situation where he wasn’t the in charge, calling the shots. She felt a thrill that she had the control and not him. “Did you have a fight with your roommates?” she asked unable to take the silence any longer.

 

“Well” he stopped walking staring at the concrete sidewalk. “I” glanced up glaring into the bright sunlight “I said a few things I shouldn’t have. I was angry and not thinking….”

“Apologize” she suggested watching him closely. She had always wondered about his friendship with the quiet, mild-mannered blonde. It seemed an odd sort of friendship to her.

He grunted glancing towards her “it’s not that easy.”

“Sure it is” she objected “all you say is I’m sorry.”

Shaking his head he turned and began to walk again “you don’t understand.”

“Felix” she called after him as he stepped off the curb and into the street. Several cars blasted their horns at him but he ignored them all and continued. Crystal shrugged watching him go.

***

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“We have to hurry” Carson said checking his phone for the time.

Britland gave him a surprised look “why? The photo shoot doesn’t start until this afternoon.”

“Didn’t you get the test?” he asked “it was moved to this morning.”

“Darn it” Britland muttered checking his phone “my notifications got turned off.”

“Felix was messing with your phone wasn’t he?”

“Don’t say it” Britland warned his voice brittle “he wouldn’t sabotage my career.”

“Only your personal life” Carson mumbled earning himself a well deserved glare.

“He wouldn’t do it” Britland repeated hurrying past Carson.

Hurrying to catch up with the blonde Carson touched his arm. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that about your friend.”

“I’m so tired of being stuck in the middle between you two.” Britland snapped “every morning it’s the same thing.” He stopped to glare up at Carson “I’m tired of being torn in two. I shouldn’t have to choose between you.”

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“You’re right” Carson agreed “we’ve been playing tug of war with you. I’m sorry. I really am. I just…” the baleful glare Britland gave him made him reconsider his words. “I’ll try harder” he amended. It did little good to repeat he thought Britand deserved better at least not until he realized it himself.

“Ok” Britland sighed shielding his eyes as he looked over his shoulder at Carson. “Where are we going. To the modeling agency?”

“Nope” Carson shook his head “we need to meet the crew at the gardens.”

“The gardens?” Britland looked confused “where’s that?”

“Stick with me kid” Carson winked “you won’t get lost.” He hailed a taxi. Gave the driver the address. Sat back and relaxed.

Britland watched out the window at the rapidly changing buildings. No matter how long he lived here he was never going to know his way around. “I miss the country” he mumbled out loud.

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“Then you’ll like the gardens” Carson smiled throwing a casual arm across his companions shoulders “relax.”

“Easy for you to say” Britland leaned back “you’ve lived here all your life here.” He peered up at Carson’s profile.

Carson could feel the blonde’s eyes on him. Looking down he asked with a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth “what?”

“You never talk much about yourself” Britland stated “why? I mean everyone has secrets. I get that but I hardly know anything about you.”

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“What do you want to know?” he asked his eyes guarded, serious. “You already know my parents kicked me out. My Aunt let’s me eat for free at her restaurant. I was homeless until you took me in. What else is there to know?”

Behind his flippant attitude Britland perceived a sadness that tugged at his heartstrings. “Why do you sleep with a light on?”

“We’ll have to save that discussion for later” he removed his arm from around Britland’s shoulders to pay the driver.

Following in Carson’s wake Britland wondered what could have happened in the past to make him so afraid. He could sense it in the air. It was there in his eyes. Someone had hurt him and the pain of that hurt was just beneath the surface.

***

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They were ushered into the makeshift changing rooms. Britland blushed turning away as Carson unabashedly stripped in front of everyone. He hated this part the most. Changing in front of a dozen or more people. The feeling they were rating how he looked. Judging him. He felt naked in more ways the one.

“Put this on” someone shoved an outfit into his hands. A casual suit. He could handle that. It was a man’s cologne ad they were shooting today. He preferred those to other ads. In the back of his mind he wondered where the female models were.

Once he was dressed, styled and his make up on he was pushed into a well lit area to wait with the other models. He glanced around puzzled. Everyone assembled were male models. “What kind of ad is this?” he wondered aloud to no one in particular.

“It’s for a magazine that caters to gay men” someone replied followed by snicker.

“Oh” Britland ducked his head down not wanting to draw more attention to himself than he already had. It explained the lack of female models. He preferred working with the girl models. There was less pressure on him even if they got bitchy to each other.

A man walked over to the group rubbing his chin. He seemed to be inspecting each of them individually. Occasional grunts of disapproval could be heard as he continued to observe the group. “You” the man pointed at someone “and you” he pointed at Britland.

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Shocked Britland moved where he was directed. He hadn’t expected to be picked for the photo-op. Some clients insisted to have several standby models just in case their chosen model suddenly didn’t meet their expectations.

“You” the photographer pointed to the model Britland hadn’t worked with before. “Lean in close like your lovers. Drink in each others essence.”

Who was this guy? Britland wondered trying to comply with the instructions. He had never been this close to anyone before. Not that he hadn’t thought about it. The models hand went for low on his hips causing Britland to tense up under his touch.

“Relax” the model hissed in his ear “they want sexy.”

“No no no it’s all wrong” the client shouted his cheeks turn a ruddy color.

“You should have listened to me” the model smirked “at least now I’ll get someone else who follow instructions.”

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Relief spread through Britland’s body as he moved from the photo area. The model’s touch still lingered giving him the impression of bugs crawling on his skin.

“Stop” the client yelled “where do you think you’re going?”

“He’s going back to the reject bin” the model snickered a cocky grin spreading across his face.

The client shook his shaggy head. “He stays. He’s innocent, pure, adorable. Exactly the image I want.” Turning to the smirking model “you ruined my image. I wanted subtle. First love in bloom. Not sex on a platter.” Waving a hand he dismissed the model “you go back to the reject bin.”

A look of profound disbelief spread across the model’s face. Turning he gave Britland a lip curling snarl before pushing past him. He was muttering that he could have been innocent if that’s what had been asked for in the first place.

The photographer directed Britland into a series of single poses. “Good good” he murmured behind his camera lens. He turned to the client “we need a model who is a little older. A little bigger. More sophisticated with a touch of vulnerability.” Stroking his bearded chin the photographer walked with the client to select a new model “that one. The one with the purple hair.”

 

Carson jumped when he was directed to follow them. He hadn’t expected to work today. He had been selected as an alternate to the clients requests just in case they wanted a different look than what they had previously wanted.

“Let’s try a couple pose” the photographer suggested pushing Carson forward. “Sweet. Innocent. First love.” The man gazed through his camera lens “yes, yes good.” He took several pictures “move a little closer. Tilt your faces towards each like your about to kiss.”

Britland could feel the soft caress of Carson’s breath across his skin. His eyes dropped focusing on the man’s lips, so close to his. He could feel heat rush to his cheeks as his mind wondered what if would be like to be kissed. To have those lips brush across his. His tongue brushed lightly across his bottom lip in anticipation.

“That’s a wrap” the photographer’s voice broke harshly across Britland’s awareness making him jump.

Carson chuckled softly bringing a hand to the blonde’s cheek. He stroked his thumb across the warm emerald skin. Leaning close “your adorable when your embarrassed.” He dropped his hand and nonchalantly walked towards the changing room.

Britland watched him go. A hand went to the spot where he could still feel Carson’s gentle touch. He didn’t know what was happening to him. He’d never felt like this before. A loud clatter as part of the set fell made him move. As he moved towards the changing room his heart beat raced as his thoughts once again turned towards that moment when all he would have had to do was lean a fraction closer and their lips would have touched.

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When Felix stepped into the street he was heedless of the cars speeding past him. All he could think about was putting space between him and Crystal. She was like Britland. Pure. Too good for him. If she stayed around him for long she’d regret it like he was sure Britland regretted being his friend. He flipped off an irate driver blasting his horn at him.

He needed to get away. Away from his thoughts. His life. The mess he’d made of it. There was a little place he knew where he could spend a few hours. Play a few rounds of pool. Drink a couple of beers. Maybe a willing girl who wouldn’t mind a rumble between the sheets.

He walked down a flight of stairs to a dingy door. He opened it to the dark interior of a pool hall. It wasn’t much, certainly not a place where respectable people frequented. The room was filled with he vulgar jokes of men and women who had seen a little too much. He knew his bright pink hair and expensive clothes made him stand out. If he wasn’t careful any one of the patrons could drag him into the alley and leave for him dead. It was part of the thrill.

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The thrill he craved. It let him now he was alive. Casually he leaned against the bar. Nodding towards the grizzled man tending the bar he ordered a beer. The man gave him a cold stare. They both knew he shouldn’t be there. It had nothing to do with his age. “Hope you came to pay up pup.” The man’s deep voice boomed through out the bar. Several heads swiveled around to look. A few anticipatory grins spread across their eager faces.

“He’s all yours boys once I’m through with him” a woman’s voice said coming around the bar. She pulled him towards her tugging on his belt. She took his drink and set it on the bar.

Willingly he followed her, powerless to do anything else. He’d receive his punishment from her and she was good at delivering punishment. Then he’d worry about what he owed to the waiting guys.

 

They lingered in the park after everyone else had gone. Hesitantly Britland turned to Carson. “Will you tell me why you sleep with a light on?” He could see the withdrawal in Carson’s eyes but all he did was snort and turn away

“It’s nothing really” he sighed sitting on a nearby bench.

Sitting beside him Britland watched him closely. “Don’t hand me that. I know there’s more to it than that. You hate it when Felix brings it up. You refuse to discuss it.” He laid a hand on Carson’s “I now something happened. Something so bad you don’t want to talk about it. I see it in your eyes. The way it haunts you. Sometimes you have to talk about the bad things to release their hold on you.”

Carson stared at the hand covering his. The light greenish tinge. The comforting warmth that radiated from it. Soothing. Gentle. Safe. “I was little. No more than five. My parents had just tucked me in for the night. I…” He gazed into the park as if he wasn’t really seeing it. “I shared a room with my baby brother. He was three.”

Britland watched the tears build in the lavender orbs. He wished there was something he could do or say that could ease his pain. He squeezed Carson’s hand giving him silent message of comfort to say he was there for him.

“It was so dark” Carson continued shivering a little “there was a noise….I didn’t know what it was. I threw the blanket over my head. I thought it was the monster who lived in the closet or some such nonsense.” He closed his eyes. Tears squeezed past the closed lids “I didn’t know….”

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“You didn’t know what?” Britland asked keeping his voice gentle.

He shuddered remembering that morning like it was yesterday instead of almost twenty years in the past. “My baby brother was kidnapped. What I thought was a monster was the kidnapper. I didn’t see who it was because I too scared to look.”

“It wasn’t your fault” Britland cradled Carson against his shoulder.

“I’ll always remember what my mother said” he gulped in air “she asked why I didn’t protect him. He was just a little boy. Why didn’t I protect him?”

“It wasn’t your fault” he repeated “you were a little boy too. You wouldn’t have been able to do anything against an adult. You could have been taken too.”

“After that my parents never looked at me the same” he choked “they blamed me that Dawson was gone. After that I couldn’t sleep without a light on. It was comforting to know the minute I opened my eyes I could see everything around me. No dark places. It’s stupid I know…”

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“No not stupid” Britland said “understandable.” He clamped his mouth tight from asking what happened to his brother. He had a feeling the brother had never come home. “I’m sorry” he repeated stroking Carson’s long purple hair.

Sniffing Carson sat up. Drying his eyes he leaned his head back “I think when my parents found out I was gay it was a good excuse to get rid of me. They didn’t have to pretend anymore to want to me.”

Britland wanted to refute that. “It’s their loss” he said suddenly “you’re a wonderful person Carson. You don’t deserve to carry this burden. You were a little boy who needed their love and protection. You don’t need them.” He almost added that Carson had him but he wasn’t sure how Carson felt towards him so he left it unsaid.

Carson lifted a hand to tuck a strand of blond hair behind Britland’s ear. “Thank you” he murmured “I’ve never told anyone about what happened to my brother. You remind me of him.”

Britland nodded accepting his simple statement. Inside he was screaming. He didn’t want to be compared to his brother. He didn’t want to be his brother. He wasn’t sure what he wanted.

Chapter 4 – Altercation / Chapter 6 – Being Felix

Britland – Chapter 4 – Altercation

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The click of his bedroom door opening woke him up. He laid in the semi dark listening for something else, a footstep or a voice. His pulse raced as he imagined a burglar sneaking inside. The surprise when the door didn’t open as quietly as expected. The hesitancy the intruder might have wondering if the sleeping occupant had been awakened.

A girls high-pitched giggle put his concerns to rest. He peeked out from beneath his covers. He could make out their silhouette from the glow of his nightlight. She was clad only in her unmentionables and the guy had his shirt off. The girl was working on his belt as they smooched and slobbered on each other.

“Wrong room” he growled sitting up having seen enough.

“Sorry dude” Felix mumbled while the girl sucked his bottom lip. “Want to join?” He unclasped the girls bra tossing towards Carson’s head.

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“Get out” he shouted snatching the girl’s underwire and tossing it back.

“Party pooper” the girl pouted as she freed Felix of his pants.

Carson closed his eyes to keep from seeing more than he cared to see of his roommate and date. This was becoming a nightly ritual with this guy. It was getting old. He heard them mutter something. A few grunts and bumps before the closed leaving him in silence. He got out of bed gathered their discarded clothes and tossed them into the hallway.

He glanced towards Britland’s closed bedroom door wondering if he was asleep or not. Running a hand through his disheveled hair he backed into his room. Maybe Felix didn’t pull the same shit with him as he did with him. Muttering to himself Carson lay down on his bed. Tossed an arm over his eyes and tried to regain the relaxed state he had been in before being rudely awakened. The soothing glow from the night-light was reassuring. Eventually his eyes drooped, closing and sleep once again claimed him.

***

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Britland woke up to the sounds of raised angry voices. He moaned rolling over covering his head with his pillow. Felix and Carson were at it again. It every morning started out the same way. Those two fighting like five-year olds and him refereeing.

After a couple of minutes Britland knew they weren’t going to stop on their own. He crawled out of bed wishing one or the other would grow up. That seemed like an impossibility for the near future at least.

As soon s he opened his bedroom door their angry voices washed over him like a tidal wave. He hated confrontations of any kind. He was like his father that way. A peace keeper. Raised voices always grated on his nerves. “Can’ you guys get along without me for a few minutes?” he demanded glaring at both men few seconds.

Carson lowered his head like a chastised child. Felix pointed an accusing finger in Carson’s direction. “Do you know what he did?”

Baffled Britland turned his towards Carson who shrugged. His jaw set in a stubborn hard-line. “What?” he asked with a feeling he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“He threw my clothes into the hallway” Felix glared at Carson “that jacket is expensive and requires special care and respect.”

Carson’s jar ticked as he visibly bristled under Felix’s unfair accusation. He was like a guard dog fighting against its chain trying to get to an intruder. He glanced at Britland before responding “then you shouldn’t have left them in my room.”

“That’s no excuse for disrespecting my things.” Felix jabbed a finger into the larger man’s chest “you live in my house. Have some respect.”

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Knocking his finger away Carson growled. “I pay rent you moron. Same as you.”

“That’s not the point” Felix jutted his chin out pushing Carson into the counter.

Carson shoved the smaller man away from him. “How about you have some respect for me. Do you think I like be awakened in the middle of the night by you and your newest bimbo?”

“She got confused….”

“By what?” Carson demanded “doesn’t she know her right from her left?”

“If you didn’t sleep with a night-light this wouldn’t have happened” Felix persisted.

“What difference does that make?” Carson demanded leaning against the refrigerator, “my door was closed.”

“It confused her” Felix repeated stubbornly.

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“And you were to sloshed to notice” Carson added with a derisive snort.

“I was about to get my rocks off so excuse me for not caring” Felix snapped.

“Of course that’s the only thing you care about.” He shook his head, his mouth twisting in a disgusted grimace. “Why any woman wants to get with you is beyond me.”

“I haven’t gotten any complaints” Felix bragged looking over Carson’s shoulder smirking “at least I’m getting some.”

Britland gasped audibly “that was uncalled for” he stammered as both men turned to stare at him.

“If he wasn’t sexually frustrated he wouldn’t be so upset.” Felix shrugged slapping Carson across the back. “Go ahead make your move. He’s just waiting for someone to take control. Be his first. Show him what he’s missing. I know you want to.”

“The hell’s wrong with you?” Carson exclaimed “have some respect at least for him if not for me. He’s suppose to be your friend.”

“Yeah so” he asked belligerently staring defiantly into Carson’s face. He looked away when Britland made an inarticulate moan before turning and retreating to his room

“Look what you did?” he accused Carson.

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“Me” he shook his head wanting nothing more than to feel the satisfying crunch of his fist pounding itself into Felix’s thick skull. “This is on you….not me.”

“If you’d be a man and just lay him….” he didn’t finish as Carson’s fist landed squarely in the mouth.

Carson stood over him breathing heavy. His hands bleeding from connecting with Felix’s teeth. A satisfied smile spread across his face “that felt as good as I thought it would.”

Felix inspected his face a surprised expression in his eyes. Spitting blood he held a hand beneath his slowly dripping nose. “Shit dude really” he mumbled anger replacing his surprise.

Carson bent down, his voice trembled with repressed rage. “Say whatever you want about me. Leave Britland out of it.”

“I’ll say whatever I damn well please,” he spat on the floor aiming for Carson’s bare feet.
Taking a step back his teeth grinding together “you are a sorry ass friend.”

Lacking a comment Felix flipped him off as he dragged himself to his feet. “Britland is my friend and always will be. All you are is a lay and your screwing that up.”

Carson stepped aside to let the younger man stagger past him.

***

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When Felix’s bedroom door closed Carson knocked softly on Britland’s door. He waited for the blonde to open his door long enough to think he wasn’t going to. He was about to give up when Britland stuck his head out. “Are you alright?” Carson asked keeping his voice down so as not to disturb Felix and restart the feud.

“Fine” he mumbled his eyes downcast.

Carson raised an eyebrow “liar.” That got him a half-hearted smile. “Come on. I’m taking you out for breakfast.”

“I’m fine” Britland snapped “you don’t have to worry about me.”

“I’m not” he retorted “I’m hungry and thought you might be too.” He could see that Britland was still visibly upset over what that pink haired idiot had said about him.

“We’re friends aren’t we? Friends go out to eat all the time.” He gave Britland his best pleading puppy dog look he could manage.

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Chuckling a little Britland looked up meeting his eye “you can’t go out looking like that.”

“Why not?” he asked looked down at himself “don’t you think I look good like this?”

“It’s not a matter of looking good” Britland protested pushing on Carson’s well defined chest. Shock brightened his light green eyes. His cheeks turned dark. “Wow” he choked dropping his hand “it’s a matter of what’s appropriate.”

“Are you saying this isn’t appropriate?” Carson teased delighting in the dark emerald hue Britland’s cheeks took on when he was flustered. “Give me five minutes to change.”

“Five minutes” Britland grinned at him relaxing “after that I start making pancakes.”

“You do remember what happened the last time you tried to cook?” Carson asked his voice deadly serious.

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“It wasn’t that bad” he mumbled his cheeks again a dark emerald-green.

“Not that bad” he demanded “we had firemen in full gear evacuating the building.”

“It was just a small fire” he mumbled “besides I’ve improved since then.”

“It’s only been two weeks” Carson laughed “no one improves that much.”

“Fine I won’t cook but the cereal comes out in four minutes” Britland snapped sounding aggravated.

Carson let out a loud guffaw “you are so adorable when you’re embarrassed.”

“I’m not embarrassed” Britland snapped “I’m irritable and hungry.”

“I better hurrying so we can feed you” he turned walking from the room. He could feel Britland’s eyes following him. It made him feel light and fluffy

***

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Pushing his plate away Britland smiled over at his companion “thank you.”

“You’re welcome” Carson laid his napkin on his plate “it’s not as good as my Aunt’s cornettos though.”

“I wish I could cook” Britland said wistfully picking at the crumbs on the table.

“Why’s that?” Carson asked signing to pay for their meal.

His cheeks darkened as he raised his eyes “I’d cook you all your favorite meals.”

“I can teach you” Carson offered.

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“You can cook” he asked surprised “all the time you’ve lived with us you’ve never cooked once.”

Shrugging Carson laughed “I know how to cook doesn’t mean I like to cook.”

“There’s a difference” Britland asked having never thought about it before.

“Big, big, huge difference” Carson said holding his arms out wide “people who like to cook put their heart and souls into it. People who cook to eat don’t. It shows in the food. The way it tastes. I can tell the difference. So can you if you think about it.”

Nodding deep in thought Britland could see how that would be true. “My parents weren’t very good cooks. I ate a lot of mac and cheese growing up.”

“And Hamburger Helper I’d imagine” Carson added “I’ll teach you then you can surprise your parents with a home cooked meal when they come to visit.”

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“As long as I don’t burn the building down” he joked. Being with Carson was like a breath of fresh air compared to hanging out with Felix. He couldn’t help but make the comparison. “You know Felix isn’t such a bad guy…”

“Please don’t tell me I just need to get to know him” Carson rolled his eyes “he acts more like a jealous lover than a friend.”

“That might be the problem” his eyes grew large at what he said “he is jealous but not jealous lover kind of jealous. He’s never had to share me with anyone before. I think it scares him.”

“That’s no excuse for being a jerk” Carson complained “I don’t care why he’s the way he is. I don’t care how he treats me. What I do care about is you.” He laid his hand down on top of Britand’s hand “you don’t deserve the abuse he hurls at you. It doesn’t matter what your sex life is like or if you have one.”

“He’s my friend” Britland said as if it explained everything “he doesn’t have anyone else. Give him time.”

“You may be his friend” Carson moved his head “but Felix isn’t yours.” He saw the regret, the hurt in Britland’s eyes. “I’m sorry I won’t say anything else about him. I don’t get it. Just don’t expect me to like him.”

***

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Felix mopped at his nose still fuming over the unexpected blow that knocked him flat. He hadn’t thought Carson hadn’t it in him. He could hear Carson and Britland talking, making plans. Without him….again. He glared at his reflection in the mirror.

Britland was his friend. Had been his friend since preschool. That should mean something. He had stuck by him when everyone teased him for his big eyes and green skin. This is the thanks he gets. To be dumped like yesterday’s news.

He scowled at his image. A part of him knew he deserved it. He had said some awful things. He didn’t seem to be able to control the dribble that came out of his mouth sometimes. He kicked at the bottom drawer. His toes protesting the abuse. Grabbing some clothes he bolted for the bathroom. He needed a shower and some companionship.

The water ran off his head, down his body. It lacked the soothing relaxing tones he usually got. All he could think about were the words he said about Britland. If someone else had said those things he would have flattened them. Instead he was the one receiving the flattening.

Jumping from the shower feeling no better than he had before he dressed quickly hoping to be gone before they returned. The last thing he wanted to do was look Britland in the eyes and see the rejection he deserved. He ran out of his apartment so fast he knocked over one of his neighbors.

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Looking down he gasped in shock. The pretty girl from down the hall lay sprawled on the floor. “I’m so sorry” he cried bending over to hep her up.

Knocking his hands away “I’m fine” she said brushing off her clothes as if his touch made her dirty.

“I am sorry” he sighed his chest feeling tight and heavy. He blinked several times. This wasn’t his day.

“I know I heard you” she mumbled “where’s the fire?”

“I just had to get out. Get some air” he ran a hand through his still damp hair.

“Well JoAnn isn’t here” she stated positive that’s who he was looking for.

“Yeah I know. She’s visiting her parents with the kids” he mumbled. Maybe his trysts with the neighbor hadn’t been such a good idea. But she was always available when he needed some relief. He ran a hand over his eyes rubbing them.

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“Are you alright?” she asked her demeanor and tone changing to concern.

“Yes….no” he sighed letting some of his unease out “I was an idiot and I’m afraid my best friend hates me.”

Considering his words and the misery she read in his eyes she offered something she wouldn’t normally do. “If you promise to behave we could go for a walk. If you feel like talking we can do that to.”

“I think I’d like that” he smiled a spark of his old self shining through.

“The moment you misbehave or do anything inappropriate I’m gone” she warned.

“I promise I’ll be on my best behavior” he said solemnly.

“Alright then” she nodded moving towards the elevator.

Chapter 3 – Friends or Something Else / Chapter 5 – Heartache

Britland – Chapter 3 – Friends or Something Else

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Leaving the apartment Britland had no clue where he was going. He didn’t want to sit in any cafe or restaurant he couldn’t afford to purchase anything on the menu. Shopping was out for the same reason. Maybe a library or a park. Some place he could sit. The bottoms of his feet were killing him. He hated to admit he might need some sort of inserts to keep his feet from swelling to the size of balloons from a day of standing and posing on them for hours on end.

He limped towards what looked like a public park. His eyes greedily soaked in the tall leafy trees, the green grass, flowers, the buzzing of bees, the chirping of birds and squirrels running around calling to each other. He took a deep fortifying breath. Taking it all in. It felt like home. A hundred little things he hadn’t noticed he’d miss all came crashing down on him like a wrecking ball. His face contorted as he fought to keep from crying. It had only been two days since he left Riverview and he missed it already. At that moment all he wanted to do was go home.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t feel like he had no home here. Somehow having the image of Felix doing their neighbor on the couch wiped the idea of that apartment being home out of his mind. He just couldn’t get rid of the mental pictures or the sounds of her screams out of his head. He closed his eyes willing himself to calm down. It’s not he end of the world. He could have the upholstery cleaned. His mind skipped to more unpleasant thoughts like what if they hand done the deed in other places? The kitchen counter where he prepared and ate his meals? What if…don’t go there he mentally chastised himself. He was better off not knowing. He’d just have to adjust. Sanitize everything before he used it.

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“Hey” a familiar voice called from behind him “fancy meeting you here Goldie Locks.”

Taking a deep breath Britland turned to meet the model he had worked with all day. “Hey Carson” he mumbled pretending to glad to see him.

“Whoa what truck ran you over?” he asked “I’ve had livelier greetings from the crazy bird lady over there and she only talks to birds.”

“I don’t feel like talking about it” Britland bristled under what felt like unfair criticism.

“Fair enough,” Carson shrugged “you just looked like you could use someone to talk to.”

Britland watched him turn as if he meant to walk away. “Wait” he called “I’m sorry. I’m just in a bad mood. All I wanted to do was go home and sleep. Now I…” he sighed looking away cheeks warming under the interested scrutiny of the other man.

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“I take it the roommate had other plans” he said with understanding.

His shoulders lifted in a listless half-hearted shrug. “You could say that. He…never mind” he shook his head. “Let’s just say I’ll never be able to look at my couch or neighbor the same again.”

“Oh” Carson’s eyes twinkled “I think you need a new friend.”

“I whole heartedly agree” Britland laughed releasing the pent-up tension he’d felt from the moment he opened the apartment door. “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a guy just go to the park because they want to?” Carson asked somewhat defensively.

“I guess” Britland could sense he had some how touched upon a sore subject. “I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just….I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew here.”

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“You hungry?” Carson asked changing the subject “I know about this little Italian Restaurant that’s only a block away.”

Britland’s stomach chose that moment to growl at the thought of food. “I really can’t afford it. I’m barely going to make my share of the rent.”

“It’s my treat” Carson assured him throwing an arm around his shoulders “Come on it’s the best in town.”

Britland could feel his reserves slipping as he looked into Carson’s kind sensitive eyes. “Alright you win. Only because I’m starving and can’t go home.”

A grin spread across Carson’s face “great. You won’t regret it.”

***

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Felix knew when the door opened that it would be Britland coming home. He pushed in a little harder causing the woman beneath him to moan louder. Her moans intoxicating him as he glanced up in time to catch the horrified expression on his friends face.

Felix was an exhibitionist as heart. Loved to have an audience in everything he did; especially sex. Pity his best friend was such a prude. Maybe in time he could get wear away Britland’s reserves, loosen up his puritanical ways. That was doubtful to happen anytime soon judging from the way Britland bolted from the room.

It wasn’t until after the lady from across the hall left that Felix found his mail tossed haphazardly on the floor. Picking it up he rubbed his chin wondering how it had gotten there. He had dropped it on purpose when he set the pretty girls groceries down in front of her door. It was her he had been expecting when he answered the knock at his door. Had the girl come by when he was preoccupied? Had she seen what he was doing? Was she responsible for the girlish screech he heard? At the time he thought it was Britland which only heightened his pleasure.

It was more amusing when he thought it was his uptight childhood friend. Not so much now. Why did it bother him that she may have seen him earlier? Normally he’d hope it would impress the girl with his prowess to make a woman scream with pleasure. He doubted with this girl that it would win him any brownie points. Why did that thought concern him?

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Tossing the mail on the counter he glanced at the couch. No doubt Britland would want him to get it cleaned. Grunting he dismissed the idea. If Britland wanted it cleaned he could do it himself. It’s not like it was the first time and he doubted it would be the last. He chuckled at the thought of what his friend would think if he only knew. Britland would either learn to accept his ways or leave.

He dismissed any thoughts of his friend in favor of a long relaxing shower. The scratches on his back stung as the water ran over his back. The lady from across the hall sure knew what she was doing. The girl from last night hadn’t been much of a lay.

Images of the pretty girl from down the hall came unbidden to mind. He bet she was an innocent in the ways of pleasing a man. He want to fill in the blank pages in her book of experience. He could teach her many things. Moaning he switched the dial to cold. He needed a clear head before he went to thank her for bringing his mail to him.

***

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“Quit picking at the table-cloth” Carson whispered across the table “they had them imported from Italy.”

“Oh” Britland dropped his hands into his lap where he fidgeted with the nails wishing he had just gone home. He could feel the hostile glare from the maitre d from across the room despite the fact they had been seated in a far off corner behind a huge leafy plant. “Maybe we should go” he suggested scooting his chair back.

“Not until we eat” Carson grabbed his hand “just relax and enjoy.”

“But I…” Britland scanned the room noting the waiter was heading in their direction. He pulled his hand away. His eyes glancing at the menu of incomprehensible Italian. His mouth dropped open as Carson ordered for both of them in fluent Italian. His heart raced imagining what it’d be like to listen to Carson speaking to him in Italian in a moment of heated passion. His face flushed with heat as he felt Carson’s eyes gazing at him with an expression he didn’t quite understand. It was an expression he had seen a million times from girls coming onto Felix though.

He turned away breaking the connection, the spell that was being weaved between them. He didn’t even know if the guy was gay. He didn’t know anything about him other than he was a model who helped him out of a bad situation the night before.

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“You’re going to love the risotto and the bruschetta is to die for” Carson enthused.

“How often to do you eat here?” Britland wondered.

“Almost every night” Carson shrugged as if it were nothing “my Auntie owns it.”

“Aw” Britland smiled “that explains why the maitre d let us in without the prerequisite tie.”

“You guessed” Carson laughed “crabby face probably things your my boyfriend.”

There was something in the way he said it or the look in his eye that had Britland looking at him with interest. “Do you bring a lot of guys here?” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer to that question.

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“As a matter of fact” he paused as the waiter returned with the wine Carson ordered with their meal “no I don’t. You’re the first.”

“Then why would the maitre d assume we’re a couple? I mean we could just friends.” His cheeks flushed as Carson smiled over at him making him realize what he said “I mean we are just friends, right?”

“Do you know how adorable you are when you blush?” Carson asked making Britlan turn an even deeper shade of green. “He know’s my preferences” he gave Britland an intense appraising gaze “I’m gay. Do you have a problem with that?”

“Nnnno” he stammered taking a gulp from his wine glass.

“Go easy on that” Carson advised his eyes sparkling in the candle light “a fine wine is to be sipped. Savored. Not gulped.”

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Coughing he patted his mouth dry with the cloth napkin “sorry.”

“What made you want to become a model?” Carson asked taking a sip of his wine. Breathing in its aroma with a practiced air.

“A lady at the mall said I had the look they were looking for” he replied “I didn’t have any other idea what I wanted to after graduation so I took her up on it.”

“Graduation? From college?” Carson frowned his eyes going from Britland’s face to the wine glass and back again.

Britland reached for his glass than thought better of it. “Not exactly” he mumbled staring glumly at the table feeling as if the magical evening was about to come to a disastrous end

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“You don’t mean high school, do you?” when Britland nodded he grabbed the wine glass “no wonder you had no clue how to appreciate fine wine.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t…” hi mouth snapped shut as the waiter returned with their meal. He stared glumly at the steaming plates his appetite gone. He knew he had ruined a perfect evening along with the beginnings of a friendship.

“Go ahead and eat” Carson encouraged all anger was gone from his voice and manner.

Lifting his fork Britland took a hesitant bite of the risotto. “Mmm this is good” he praised the meal in lieu of the apology he felt he still owed.

***

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“You don’t have to walk with me.” Britland expected Carson to nod and go on his way.

“I’ll go as far as the park,” he said walking beside him, their shoulders brushing each other.

They turned into the par where several homeless people were setting up for the night in the shadows. He watched as Carson walked over to a grungy older toothless man. “Thanks Harvey for watching my camp.” He fished in his pocket for some loose bills to hand to the man. Harvey hobbled off into the dark. Turning Carson smiled at Britland who was staring at the transaction. “It’s no big deal” he shrugged “I lost my apartment a few days ago. My roommate decided he wanted his girlfriend to live with him rather than me.”

The thought of this gorgeous man sleeping like a homeless person made Britland feel more than a little sick. “Why can’t you just go home?” he asked.

Carson made a bitter sound that might have been a low chuckle. “As if my parents want anything to do with me. They kicked me out once I came out as gay. It was cool though. At the time I already been planning on moving out. I just didn’t expect my roommate acquiring a girlfriend so soon.”

Shaking his head Britland reached over grabbed Carson’s forearm preventing him from leaving. “You’re not sleeping out here” he protested.

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“I’ll be alright” Carson shook his hand off “it’s not like I haven’t done it before.”

“No” he said almost shouting. His shout drew several curious looks from nearby people.

“Keep your voice down” Carson hissed “I don’t want to give up my spot because the locals don’t trust me.”

“You can stay with me” Britland insisted not listening to Carson’s protests. His pulse raced at the thought of this handsome man living with him, someone he just met the night before but he couldn’t let him sleep outside in the park.

“What about your roommate?” Carson asked giving in “won’t he object?”

“Probably” Britland shrugged as if he didn’t care “if he can have sex all over the damn furniture I can have a friend stay.”

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Carson raised an eyebrow at the unusual outburst. “Am I your friend?” he asked curious.

“Of course” Britland nodded looking at his feet “you did save me from possibly embarrassing myself last night at the club. You helped me out today when I was so nervous I couldn’t think straight. Dinner tonight even though you were upset when you found out I lied about my age.”

“It wasn’t so much the lie but worry for my Auntie” Carson explained “she lets me eat at her restaurant free of charge. I don’t want her getting in trouble by serving alcohol to someone underage. She could lose her liqueur license.”

“I feel terrible about that” Britland apologized again.

“Don’t worry about it” Carson shrugged moving to collect his things “if you’re sure your roommate won’t mind. I’d love to sleep on something other than the ground for a change.”

“I don’t care if he does mind” Britland asserted hoping that would be the way he still felt when Felix confronted him about it.

***

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Felix threw Britland’s door open. “Who the hell is that guy?” he demanded.

Sitting up Britland stared at him with a confused sleepy look on his face. “What guy?” he asked his brain fuzzy from sleep.

“The guys you brought home last night,” Felix yelled “what’s he doing here?”

Rubbing his eyes Britland yawned. “He didn’t have any place else to stay. I said he could stay here.”

“You what?” He shouted “you had no right to invite a stranger to live here without my permission.”

“What about what’s her name you screwed on the couch?” Britland shot back.

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“That’s different” Felix scoffed “she doesn’t live here.”

“Neither does Carson” Britland said “he just needs a place to stay until he finds a place of his own.” He stood up feeling at a too much of a disadvantage with Felix towering over him. “We have that extra room. We could use the extra cash. Expenses split three ways is better than two.”

“That would be a plus” he conceded grudgingly. Walking to the door “net time ask before bringing some random guy home.”

“Like you asked before having random sex on our furniture and floor” Britland asked.

Shrugging “that’s different. Doing the neighbor was spur of the moment. Bringing home hippie dude is another.” His eye brightened as a mischievous grin spread across his face “unless…did you two have hot passionate sex last night?”

“OMG no” Britland shook his head “I’ve just met him. Unlike you I don’t make it a habit of jumping into bed with every guy I meet.”

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“Have you ever jumped into bed with anyone?” Felix asked his eyes shining bright with curiosity.

“That’s none of your business” Britland stammered as his cheeks flared a deep emerald-green.

“Dude I’ve got to get you laid” Felix laughed turning coming face to face with their new roommate. “You just might be the one to do it.”

“To do what?” Carson asked eyes shifting to Britland.

“To pop our boys cherry” Felix chortled pushing past the stunned model.

Felix’s words hung heavy in the awkward silence. “If you want me to hit him I will” Carson offered breaking the silence bringing a relieved grin to Britland’s lips.

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“As much as he deserves it no” Britland sighed sitting heavily on the edge of his bed rubbing his hands over his face. “He can be a jerk sometimes” he admitted as if it were a revelation.

“From what I’ve seen that’s being generous” Carson said coming to stand in front of Britland. “If this is going to make you uncomfortable I don’t have to stay. I was doing ok in the park.”

“Absolutely not” Britland protested glaring up at him “I’d worry about you all the time if I let you stay in the park. What kind of friend would I be if I let you do that? I can handle Felix. He’s harmless.”

“If you say so” Carson chuckled “the offer still stands. I can still hit him if you want me to.”

Shaking his head Britland stood up. “No Felix isn’t so bad.” Smiling he said “I’ll keep it in mind though.”

“Alright” Carson moved towards the door paused. “He wasn’t wrong though…” he waited for Britland to look up at him. “I do want to get to know you more than just friends.” He laughed at the mixture of confusion, embarrassment and desire that flitted across Britland’s expressive face deepening the color on his cheeks. “I do love it when you blush.”

***

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When the door closed behind Carson, Britland stared at his reflection in the mirror. What did a guy who looked like Carson see in him? His eyes were too large although they lacked the distinct inky blackness his father and Grandmother had. His skin was green another hold over of his alien ancestry. He hated it His hair was blond, which was the only feature he liked about himself.

He bit his lip. Was he cut out for this lifestyle? He just invited a practical stranger to live in his home. Although that stranger was nicer to him than his so-called best friend has been. Still he couldn’t help but wonder if he had done the right thing. He was distracted by the ringing of his phone. “Hello” he said expecting a telemarketer from the unknown number flashing across the screen.

“You should have heeded my warnings” the voice was deep almost mechanical. It was like they were speaking through a device made to alter voices.

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“Felix is that you?” Britland asked “this isn’t funny.”

“It’s not meant to be funny” the voice hissed “stop modeling before someone gets hurt. No one wants to see the abomination that is you.” There was a pause before the voice continued “freak.”

He tossed the phone done with a loud clatter on the dresser. That wasn’t Felix. It couldn’t be. For all faults Felix had never called him a freak. Not once in all the years they had known each other.

He was in too deep to just quit. He had signed a contract. He needed the job. The exposure. If he bailed on the contract that would be the end of his career. He couldn’t do that. His parents were already disappointed in him. He didn’t need to be a failure in his chosen career added on top of everything else.

Chapter 2 – Twisted / Chapter 4 – Altercation