A/N: Man. Who knew it would take more than three months for this chapter to come out? HAHAHA! I'm not setting anymore deadlines. And yeah, this entire chapter is composed of flashbacks, the first when the boys are eleven, and the second half refers to a part in Chapter 9 – so yeah, read through that if you can't remember what happened.

JULY 31: If for some reason, you're getting a Fictionpress Error Note saying that the next chapter hasn't been uploaded yet - it's lying! I uploaded it, FP is just being stupid. So just keep refreshing or come back in a while. :)


TO LOVE A LOSER

THE TWENTIETH LOSS


There it was.

The tree – the finish line. Just above the hill.

Felix's quick feet thumped against the grass as he raced up the hill. His gangly, eleven year old arms swung at his sides. His breathing was short and measured, just enough to get the air in and out of his lungs. While he had led the race from the start, it was never by much, for less than two heartbeats behind him was Oliver, whose feet were just as quick, whose arms swung as fast, whose breathing was just as short and measured.

Felix's could have sworn his heart was in his throat from how hard it was beating. There were the endorphins coursing through his body, the excitement of winning the race, and the thrill of having Oliver there to meet him in every step, in every lunge, just the two of them, leaving the rest of the group nearly a quarter of a mile behind them. He glanced back and when his eyes met Oliver's, he was almost convinced his heart would burst and he'd lose the race when Oliver flashed him a smile.

"Almost there!" Oliver yelled, a daring twinkle in his eye.

Felix nearly tripped, giving Oliver a second lead over him, and he could hear the laughter escape Oliver's lips when they were less than ten feet away from the tree. "What happened to you?" he yelled back. "You better hurry up!"

In an effort not to lose face, Felix used every last bit of strength and speed his body had. He made up the ground he had lost, five feet to the tree they were head to head, and when both boys did one final push – Felix managed to edge Oliver out less than a second earlier.

As soon as they passed the tree, both boys crumbled to the ground, their legs spread out and gasping for breath as they clutched their chests. Oliver coughed as he rolled to his stomach, pushing himself up with his elbows as he glanced at Felix. "Jeez, you're too fast," he said in between breaths. He paused for a long time, his deep breaths filling the space between them. "Are you sure… you're not drinking anything? If you are… give me some."

Felix's tired chest hurt as he chuckled. He looked up at Oliver. "No, I'm not taking anything."

With a tired nod, Oliver lowered himself beside Felix, the side of his face pressed against the dirt. He wrinkled his nose as blades of grass tickled his nostrils. "Well, good job," he muttered, closing his eyes. "I don't think the rest of them will be coming anytime soon… wake me up when they get here."

Felix offered a small nod in response, his heart beating just a little bit faster despite having already won the race. He watched as sleep eased onto Oliver's face and as the breeze blew strands of his dark hair from side to side. The beating of his heart along with the rustling of the leaves in the tree filled his ears… and Felix was having a hard time thinking. He didn't know what this was; this… tightness in his chest, the bundle of nerves, the burst of warmth that spread throughout his body whenever he and Oliver were alone like this; just the two of them. His eleven year old self couldn't explain the emotion that stirred in him whenever Oliver just looked/smiled/glanced at him, whenever he had Oliver's attention despite the number of friends Oliver had.

In fact, the friends they were with now weren't exactly his friends. They were Oliver's. Felix knew the only reason he was there was because Oliver had brought him along.

Minutes passed and Felix's heart didn't beat any slower. He was just about to stand up to check if Oliver's friends were at the bottom of the hill when a fallen leaf landed on Oliver's hair. Oliver continued to sleep as Felix stared at it, his hand slowly moving to pull it off. By the time Felix's fingers closed around the leaf's dry petiole, he realized he had been holding his breath the entire time. He swallowed nervously as he set the leaf on the ground and he practically jumped when he heard the loud thumping of feet racing up the hill.

"We're finally here!"

Oliver stirred and woke up, quickly pushing himself up to a sitting position. "Oh, oh, they're here," he mumbled, rubbing his face with his hands.

Felix stared at Oliver's back, not making any attempts to sit up just yet. His eyes strayed from Oliver's back to the five others boys who were now leaning against the tree, their hands clutching their chests as they caught their breath.

"You guys… are too fast," one of them said.

"Yeah," the other added. "Charlie almost fainted halfway through the race."

Oliver grinned as he shared a triumphant glance Felix's way. "Nah, you guys are just too slow, right, Felix?"

Felix was aware the boys weren't his friends, so he didn't want to hurt their feelings if he said something. He managed a brief nod before picking himself up from the ground.

"Okay, so, who won?"

"Oh," Oliver said, scuffing a rock with his shoe. "Felix did."

The boy who had asked laughed. "See, if you hadn't brought him along, you would have won!"

"Jeez, shut up, Rem," Oliver said, rolling his eyes. He pushed the boy's shoulder and while it was just a small shove, the boy's legs were still wobbly from all the running so it was enough to make him topple over.

Everyone else laughed as the boy picked himself up from the ground. "Yeah, yeah."

The rest of the boys congratulated Felix by patting him on the back, and his cheeks reddened as he said his thanks to each of them.

"Hey, guys," another boy said, pushing himself off the tree. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "Let's go to the lake! Come on, Oliver, my uncle has a boat, and I'm pretty sure he'll let us use it! Come on!"

"Yeah, come on, Oliver!" the others cried out.

"Seriously?" Oliver said, his eyes wide as the boys started racing down the hill to head to the lake. "Awesome!"

As everyone started down the hill, Felix moved slowly to follow them but stopped a couple seconds after. The boys had clearly mentioned Oliver to come, but they hadn't said his name. For a second, he wondered if it was going to be rude if he came with them and he wondered maybe they hadn't intended for him to come. They had said Oliver's name, but they hadn't said his. He bit his bottom lip when he realized that maybe they wanted him to go home.

But all thoughts disappeared when Oliver stopped running after his friends and looked back up the hill. "Felix!" he yelled, waving at him to get his attention. "What are you still doing there? Come on!"

A burst of emotion blossomed from Felix's chest, and he didn't think his little heart could take anymore of these activities. A large smile made it to his lips as he raced down to meet Oliver at the foot of the hill.


It was their Junior year and they were in France for a tournament. There was a crowd of people in the locker room because the entire team was celebrating – Felix had placed first and Oliver had placed third. There was a lot of noise and cheering and singing and Felix could barely feel his shoulder from all the congratulatory claps it had received. He was looking for one person out of the many, but he could barely move around and he nearly stumbled over one of the benches in his search. He was about to give up and look for him later when he felt another clap on his shoulder before the hand turned him around.

"Congratulations."

Despite the fact he had heard that single word from many people throughout the night, Felix couldn't control the silly flutter in his chest when it came from Oliver's lips. When he was eleven he didn't know why it happened nearly every time he was around Oliver, but he was older now. He knew what it meant.

A warm blush spread throughout Felix's entire face. "Th-thanks," he said, stopping his thoughts from heading any further. "You too, great, great job."

Oliver smiled and shrugged. "Well, it's just third."

Felix shook his head. "It's not just third – "

But before he could finish his sentence, hands held onto Oliver's shoulders and dragged him away. Felix blinked as Oliver was quickly surrounded by their team mates.

"Oliver, good fucking job, dude!"

"Yeah, man, we gotta go celebrate!"

Oliver scratched the side of his face. "Whatever, guys, it's just third – "

"Whatever? Jer got kicked out the first round – "

"Hey!"

"Yeah, so you're coming with us back to the room – we're bringing drinks and girls and some of the guys in the other team are coming too."

"Shit, tonight's going to be fan-fucking-tastic!"

In seconds, Oliver was being dragged out of the locker room and it wasn't long until it was just Felix and some of the coaches left in the locker room. After taking a shower, he swallowed and turned to his locker, taking his gloves and slipping them into the side pocket of his duffel bag. He took his jacket and was setting it into his duffel bag when he heard loud thumping from the hallway. He looked up just as the locker doors burst open to see a breathless Oliver standing at the doorway.

"What is taking you so long?" he asked, rolling his eyes as he made his way to Felix's bench. He grabbed the rest of Felix's things and stuffed them into Felix's duffel bag before he could protest. Then he grabbed Felix's bag and slung it over his shoulder as he made his way to the door. "Come on, come on, move it, move it."

And just like that, Felix felt like an eleven year old boy again, giddy as he followed after Oliver in the hallway. Oh, this wasn't healthy. "So where are we going again?" he asked, glancing at Oliver.

"Back to the dorm – I swear, you take forever in the shower," Oliver said, flashing a cheeky grin Felix's way.

During the walk back to their dorms, Oliver talked excitedly about the most recent Clone Wars episode he had downloaded because he wasn't sure what channels had the show in their television in the dorm. Ever since Oliver discovered the wonder that was Star Wars when they were kids, he had dragged Felix along to see every movie, every episode, every comic book, every action figure. Felix knew he was probably an expert on it by now – he was pretty sure he could list all the known monarchs of the planet Naboo – but he still didn't have the same interest in it as Oliver did.

The main reason why he tagged along was because he enjoyed seeing Oliver so excited. He enjoyed seeing Oliver's eyes light up at the sound of the theme song in the beginning of every movie or when he bought a new action figure that he already had three copies of. Most of all, Felix enjoyed the warmth that spread throughout his entire body every time he realized that he was the only person Oliver shared this secret obsession with. Felix found comfort at the thought that out of Oliver's many, many friends, he was the only one Oliver shared this side with. He had some small hope that Oliver held him one level above many of his friends to be the one to share this 'secret' with.

Felix knew it was stupid, thinking that way. But he supposed it was expected. After all, when you're completely in love with someone, you're constantly trying to convince yourself that things could work out, that there must be something special between the both of you that other people didn't share to make things seem possible, that you aren't stupid for hoping.

It was a fifteen minute walk back to the dorms, but Felix wouldn't have minded if it took an hour or three. As soon as they entered the large room, Oliver was dragged away by some of the other guys and Felix found himself in the middle of a group of girls from the female fencing team.

"You were really good today."

"I know, I'm so happy you beat Alain, because he's a total dick."

They were all very pretty girls, but Felix was never good with these kind of things. He stringed together some replies, but he never got into the conversation. He found his eyes wandering, looking over heads to see what Oliver was doing. When he saw him at the far corner of the room with some guys and a French girl already clinging onto his waist, the reply he was saying stopped halfway. For the longest time he just stared until he heard one of the girls say, "… And then?"

He looked back at the girls. "Uh… I'll just get a drink. I'm thirsty."

Disappointment flickered on the girls' faces as Felix excused himself to get a drink at one of the tables. He picked up one of the plastic cups and poured himself some soda. He took one sip to calm himself.

He didn't know why he was still so affected every time he saw Oliver with some girl. He knew he should have been used to it by now. Oliver had grown even more handsome as they entered high school. Felix obviously wasn't the only one who noticed it – the girls had too. And while he knew Oliver never went beyond a night with any girl, a part of him still grew nervous at the thought he'd find that one girl who'd make him stay one more night, and more nights after that.

Felix bit his lip to stop himself. Oh, he was so stupid, so selfish. If Oliver found happiness in a girl, he should be happy for him – yet here he was, dreading the thought of Oliver finding someone to spend all his time with, dreading the thought of Oliver realizing Felix was just deadweight in his life, that there were better people to be with. Felix's hand closed around the cup tightly, nearly making its contents spill over.

"You have to be a bit more convincing."

Felix's eyes widened in surprise. He turned around to see Alain, the guy he had beaten for first place. His green eyes watched Felix, a glint of dark, handsome mischief in them as he took a sip of his drink. "Otherwise it's going to be obvious that you have no interest in these girls."

A chill traveled up Felix's spine as he stared at him. Alain had been openly disappointed when Felix beat him, pulling his mask off and chucking it to the ground on the way to his locker room. It was obvious he was still in a bad mood. Felix turned away from him. "Whatever."

"Right, whatever," Alain mimicked, giving out a short laugh. He moved to follow Felix and set his drink on the table. "I've been watching you all night."

There was something mean and predatory in Alain's laugh and in his words. Felix gave him a dark look. "What do you want?"

For the longest time, Alain just smiled at him. "I never got to say… congratulations, for winning," he began slowly. "I was rude for leaving so… abruptly."

He was planning something, that Felix was sure of. From the way he had stormed out of the gym and swore at a younger team mate after the loss, Alain didn't seem like the kind of person to take defeat lightly and apologize for his actions."It was a good match," Felix replied carefully. "You're one of the best I've ever played against. You were really good."

"But obviously not good enough."

Felix didn't know what to reply to that. He knew that if he said anything else, he'd come off as arrogant and might just set Alain off. He turned away from Alain once more, believing it was the end of their conversation, but nearly jumped in surprised as Alain moved closer, so close their arms were touching. Felix glared up at him. "What are you doing?"

Alain traced a finger along the edge of the table. "I wanted to add that… you may be the best in your team, Felix, and you may have won this tournament, and many others in the future…"

Felix turned his head and narrowed his eyes at him. He had been waiting for some insult. "What's your point?"

Felix's heart raced as Alain raised his eyes from the table and met his. There was a certain glint in them that made Felix even more nervous. For the longest time, they just stared at each other, Felix not wanting to be the one to break the tense exchange, until Alain's eyes moved toward the crowd – and stopped at one particular person. When Alain's eyes traveled back to his, a much colder chill traveled up Felix's spine.

He knew.

Felix was speechless as he looked at Alain, at the smug curl on his lips, at the mocking flash in his eyes. Slowly, Alain bent down so his lips brushed Felix's ear in every word.

"But you will never be able to win this one."

When Alain pulled back, Felix's throat grew dry as he stared at him. He wanted to say something, he wanted to say something back, some harsh retort, a sarcastic remark, he wanted to deny, deny, deny – but he couldn't. He was aware that Alain was only doing this as revenge for losing the tournament, so he knew he shouldn't be so affected – but he was. Oh, he definitely was. His hands shook, not with anger, but with a trembling hopelessness that gnawed more and more of him as the seconds passed. He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out, so instead of standing there like a gaping fish in front of Alain, he turned away and slipped out of the room.

The noise from the room filled the long, empty hallway. Felix pressed his back against the opposite wall as he stared at the door, his breathing slow and measured as he tried to calm himself. He had overreacted; he had allowed Alain to get to him. He closed his eyes and tried to rationalize everything, yet all he could see behind his eyelids was the look in Alain's eyes, and all he could hear in his ears was the cruel tone of his voice, the one that practically told Felix, 'You are so stupid for ever hoping that could happen.'

Felix bit his lip as he felt a growing emptiness in him. It's one thing to think you're stupid for ever hoping for something impossible to happen, it's another when someone else confirms that you are.

He jerked as the door suddenly opened, and it was all a whirl of movement and friction and heat and suddenly, Felix found himself pressed against the wall, a thigh set between his legs, a hot, warm mouth pressed against his lips. For a second, he really believed he was such an idiot, for somewhere back in the mind, he had hoped it was Oliver, that Oliver had realized he wasn't in the room anymore, that Oliver left his circle of friends to go look for him, and when he found him at the hallway...

Of course it wasn't.

It was Alain. The thigh between his legs was pressing too hard, the kiss was rough and hurt and stung and while Felix knew he should just push him off – he didn't. He felt weak and hollow and hurt and starving – not for food, but for something else. They stumbled into a dark room and when Alain kicked the door closed, Felix couldn't see anything until he was pressed against the bed and a ray of moonlight from the window shined onto them. But he didn't want to see anything. He closed his eyes and kissed Alain back, a little more of him breaking as he tried to imagine this was he was with Oliver, that it was Oliver's hot breath against his collarbone, that it was Oliver's lean back his hands held onto, that it was Oliver's hands at his waist, unzipping his jeans, sliding the denim down his legs until they were tossed to the side.

He bit his lip when he came, and while he always thought it would feel wonderful, that there would be overwhelming warmth and the world would be a little bit better – nothing but shame and disgust and self-loathing filled him by the time Alain was finished. He took a shaky, shuddering breath when Alain lay down on the empty space of the bed, a self-satisfied, triumphant smirk on his lips. Felix wasted no time in sitting up, wincing as he did so, to grab his clothes from the floor. Alain wasn't expecting him to stay and Felix didn't want to. He fixed his jeans and pulled his shirt over his head and when he slipped back into the hallway, it was much colder than it had been before.

He lingered in the hallway for a few minutes, his stomach lurching as he replayed what he had done, what he had allowed to happen. His eyes stung and he bit his fist to control the sob that nearly escaped him. Why had he done it? What had he hoped to feel when it was over?

I'm pathetic.


A/N: I had planned this chapter a long time ago and while I had originally scrapped it because it didn't go with the flow anymore, I still felt that it needed to be put, to get to know a bit more of Felix's side of things and particular ways he views things that… yeah, differs from how Oliver views things. So yeah, consider this as an interlude… I also needed to write something to get the momentum going, right? :P

Ohhhh! A couple of chapters left! Thank you to you guys for sticking around. Your reviews and wonderful comments really helped and inspired me to write this chapter after such a long time of me not writing anything! Please leave a comment? Because, you know, the story's almost ending, don't you feel the guilt gnawing at you for not having left any note at all, especially if you've been following the story for over a year? ;) ;) ;)