Checkmate 15: Unsettling feelings
It was Thursday, and, as I was hurrying down the corridor towards the class where the Fiction Writers' meeting was being held, my thoughts were on Michael. The talk we'd had with Amy that Monday had put me on edge. I was hoping I had been right in my assumption, and that he wanted his privacy, especially right now, when it had been so thoroughly violated, what with us finding out about his problems at home and the hospital and everything. One couldn't blame him, given how protective Landon and Amy were of him. We all were, truly, but those two…
I shook my head and grinned despite of myself at the thoughts of Landon. My mind couldn't help but fly miles away from Michael and, surprise, surprise, latch onto my boyfriend. My boyfriend. I chuckled as the words kept spinning through my head. It still felt too good to be true, but at least I had become more able to handle it all. It still sent a shiver through me when I felt his fingers gently touch mine, and yes, it still surprised me, but it was the good kind of surprise, the one that makes you all giddy and think "Holly gee, he really does like me!".
Things were going surprisingly great and very, very smooth. His protectiveness always sent my eyes rolling, but it also put a cheesy grin on my face. It made me feel safe, secure, loved, so it didn't really bother me. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, we didn't fight. At all. Sure, we had our disagreements, but usually he was all too happy to give in to me, as long as it was deemed "safe". He would smile indulgently at me and watch the Discovery documentary with me, his arms around me and his chin on top of my head. It never failed to amaze and humble me. I still didn't think I deserved him, but I was starting to get used to thinking that maybe, just maybe, it didn't matter all that much. I was damned grateful for him, and I refused to over think it further than that.
So, as I was speeding down the hallway, my mind was busy weaving embarrassing, happy-ever-after scenarios about me and Landon, when I saw Michael standing in front of his locker, shoulders slumped and arms lax along his body. He seemed lost in thought, dejected, staring holes into the closed locker door, so much so, that he didn't feel me approach. I slowed down and stopped next to him.
"Michael, hey." I touched his shoulder gently and watched as he jumped, startled by my gesture. I smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring manner, and casually let my hand fall down from his shoulder.
"Oh, Matt. I didn't know you were still in the school. " He looked a little flustered, and his eyes darted in about fifteen other direction, with the exception of my face.
"Club activities. " I grimaced. I liked the clubs, really, I did, but lately I'd found myself resenting them, as they detracted from my time with Landon. But I didn't want to look obsessed and pathetic; besides, it simply wasn't healthy to center my life around just one person. So I continued to go, teeth grinding and with my mind busy with various plans for when I was would be with Landon. It seemed to work. "What are you still doing here?" I frowned. Now that I thought about it, why was he alone in school? "Where's Amy?"
Something passed over his face, annoyance mixed with guilt and something else that I couldn't recognize, but he seemed to catch himself. "I'm waiting for my French tutor. He's supposed to drive me to his place and study there. I told Amy she can leave without me. "
And she actually did? I was surprised, to say the least, and it must have shown, because he hurriedly added. "He also promised to drive me to Amy's later, when we're done, so there's no point in bothering Amy with this."
I forced myself to smile and hid my worry behind a weak grimace. "Okay, then. Mind if I wait with you?"
Michael's eyes widened. Got you. What are you hiding, Mike, huh? "Don't you have to go to the club's meeting? I don't know how much later he's going to be. "
"I don't mind. It's okay. "
The annoyance was back, and this time he didn't try to hide it. " Matt, stop worrying. I'm going to be fine. Evan and the others are gone, there's hardly anyone in the school right now. " Yeah, which is the main problem. "Lay off, I don't need a baby sitter, no matter what Amy and Landon believe. Lay off. "
"We worry about you. Is that so wrong, Michael, when you won't take steps to protect yourself? We're your friends, of course we worry."
His indignation deflated like a burst balloon and he slouched back against the locker. "I know, Matt, I understand, it's just that…", he sighed and hunched into himself.
"We won't ever know what bothers you if you don't tell us, Michael. "
He nodded jerkily, but for a few moments he didn't say anything. "I can understand you all worrying, especially Amy. She…she always takes care of me. "
I nodded. "Yes, she does. And she's not the only one, not anymore."
Michael managed to look guilty and frustrated at the same time. "I know, and I thank you all, but… "He sighed. "I just… I need a little space, and you're always in my face, pushing and prodding and coddling. I need you all to back off a little."
"No, listen to me. Things have been good lately. They haven't bothered me anymore, and I… I'm feeling good. "He smiled, and it really seemed like he was meaning it. Huh.
I huffed and gave him a quick hug. It startled him, but his smile stayed put, which was just right. "Okay, then. I'll talk with the others. Maybe we've…exaggerated a little. " I frowned and Michael laughed incredulously.
I did have the good sense to look sheepish. "Well, maybe more than a little. But you know that, if you ever need anything, we…"
"You're there to help, I know. Now shoo. "
I shooed, heading to the Fiction Writers Club. There wasn't much more I could do about it at the time. He wanted his space, and I could understand that. I didn't like it, but I could see where he was coming from. I guess we didn't have much choice but… coddle from afar, and be there if he ever needed us.
"Oh, fuck, but it's great when Friday comes along. " Landon threw his backpack at our feet and sat down in the chair next to me, wrapping his right arm around my shoulders and kissing my left temple. I smiled and leant into the warmth of his body, sighing a little at how good it felt. It was incredible, there couldn't be two people more opposed than Landon and I, yet he made me so incredibly happy, I didn't know what to do with myself.
"That bad?" I touched the hand on my shoulder and pulled it tighter around me. He just felt so… safe.
He grinned and ruffled my hair, before nipping gently at my ear. "Not really bad, simply… exhausting. Besides, weekend means I get to spend more time with my boyfriend."
"Lucky guy." I could just bet my smile looked goofy, but how could it not, when he said such things to me?
Landon nodded seriously. "He is, but so am I. Besides, " oh, the evil glint in his eyes made me shiver, " I have plans for the two of us. "
I gulped and shifted a little as a certain…something hardened in my jeans. "What do you intend to do to him?"
"Wicked, wicked, things. "
"Uh-uhm. " Landon smiled wolfishly and his green eyes sparkled with mischief. " I plan on slowly undressing him. You know, worm my hands under his T-shirt and ever so slowly push it up and over his head, kissing and licking and biting at every square inch of silken skin revealed."
I couldn't help the whimper that escaped me when his words were accompanied by warm fingers suddenly caressing the small of my back, his hand pushed under my shirt to touch skin. So warm, so good.
"Then the jeans will be next. I'll undo the zipper, careful not to … damage anything, and pull them over his rounded ass, down his legs and finally have him stepping out of them. And he'll be naked, of course, with his cock prettily… "
"Oh, my God! Get a room, preferably one that isn't the school cafeteria and has a more… selected audience. Not all of us appreciate free porn, unless it comes with a remote to turn it off. "
I jumped in my chair and tried to pull away from Landon, but his arm only tightened around me, his lips still against my ear. He nuzzled briefly into my hair then turned to shoot Amy a murderous gaze.
"Your timing sucks ass. "
"No, darling, that's you. " She sent him a kiss and sat at the table, Michael gingerly taking the place next to her. I dared to peek at him, knowing I was madly blushing, and wasn't surprised to see his eyes were averted, and his cheeks were aflame. I guess I wasn't the only one feeling uncomfortable with the situation.
Amy didn't look like she was having any similar problems as she yawned and stretched her legs under the table. "Is there anything lovelier than a Friday afternoon? School is over, what awaits you are two days when you can oversleep, laze around the house, shop at the mall, stuff like that. " She shot us a sly look and winked exaggeratedly at Landon and me. "Needless to ask you two if you have any plans for the weekend, it's plain to see you intend to break a few bedsprings. Ah, nothing hornier than two teenage boys lusting after each other. "
I must have looked horrified and utterly embarrassed, because she did nothing more than laugh copiously.
"Amy, you're in dire need of a love life. Or maybe a set of batteries, at least?"
Even Michael cracked a smile at Landon's words. It was good, really good seeing him smile.
"What can I say, not all of us have a cutie such as Matt here to be the recipient of our … excitement. "
Was it just me or was this conversation going seriously off topic? Uhh, whatever the topic had been. Still, talking about me being the …recipient for anything gave me the creeps.
"What about you, Michael? Any plans for the weekend?" I smiled over at him as I asked the question, wanting to put him at ease and ,of course, also switch the focus from my …sex life.
Michael's eyes widened and his hands sort of fluttered for a split second, before settling down. "Ah, nothing much. I'm getting together with my tutor to go over a few things. I have a test coming up in French next week."
Amy grunted and furiously chewed on the straw she was using to drink her Coke. "I still don't understand why I can't meet the guy." Landon's arm tightened around my shoulders. It seemed Landon didn't much like it, either.
"It's not that, Amy." Michael sighed and his eyes fell down to the hands in his lap. I could bet they were tightly clenched. "The opportunity just hasn't come up yet."
"In over two weeks, there's been no opportunity to introduce us?"
I could see Michael's shoulders hunch at Amy's rebuff. She noticed it too and sighed, her indignation sort of evaporating. "He could come to my house this weekend, couldn't he?"
"His parents are away and he has to take care of his little sister."
"He could bring her too. I bet between me, Matt and Landon we'd be able to take care of her at my house while you have you tutoring session. "
Michael's refusal of this solution was plain as day, and so was Landon's displeasure, if one were to judge after the tension buzzing through his body.
"Let it go, you two." I leant harder into him and turned my head to briefly kiss the fingers digging into my shoulder. "We will eventually meet him, when the time is right. And Michael can take care of him just fine." I felt Landon take a deep breath. The effort he put into relaxing was obvious, but it somehow worked.
Michael shot me a grateful look and jumped out of the chair as soon as the bell rang out. "Gonna be late for class, see you. "
We all watched him dogging through people as he made his way out of the cafeteria.
"There's no French tutor, is there?"
I nodded at Amy's words. "Probably not."
"He's going out with someone." She didn't seem thrilled wit the idea. Not at all.
"I'm going to kick the shit out of that guy. "
I grinned. Landon was still Landon. "No, you won't."
"Why can't we meet him? I don't understand."
I did, maybe just a little. "He probably doesn't want to share this with us, yet. And," I looked at Landon and her meaningfully, "maybe he doesn't want you guys scaring the guy away."
"I don't like this, baby. I don't like this at all."
I didn't either, truth be told.
"But what can we do?" The look Amy shot me told me she already knew the answer.
"Nothing much but wait and hope he'll come clean with us. "
As crass as Landon's word was, it summed up the situation perfectly.
"Tell me about your friends?" I gestured slightly toward the pictures pined on the corkboard in Landon's room.
"What?" Landon turned his eyes to me from where he was lounging lazily on his bed. "Oh." He smiled and patted the mattress next to him. "Come here."
I went and stretched next to him, pillowing my head on his shoulder.
"Cole and Kelly. " He kissed the top of my head and settled in a more comfortable position. "The first thing to know about them is, they're crazy. Plain crazy. Especially Kelly. The second is, there's no one person more important to them than each other. No matter how much they bitch, swear and rip at each other, it's always good-naturedly done, and they know that and manage not to take each other seriously during those moments. They're each other's twin sibling, and at the same time best friend and confidant. Whatever happens with Kelly, Cole will know, and viceversa."
"They sound wonderful. And you sound like you miss them."
"Oh, I do. How could I not? If they're twins and practically in each other's mind all the time, I'm their adopted sibling. Probably the next most important person after each other. And they….well, they used to be the most important for me. " Landon looked down at me and smiled meaningfully. Oh.
I blushed, while my heart swelled so much in my chest, almost to the point of bursting. "Landon, I…"
"Hush. I know." He playfully kissed my nose. "Where was I?"
"Cole and Kelly."
"Ah, yes. We met around middle school and bonded pretty much instantly. We never had bullying problems, probably because all three of us were aggressive enough to keep others from messing with us. Separately, we could reasonably hold our own. Together, we were… to be feared, really. "He grinned. " Moreover, while Kelly fights reasonably well, she's a girl first and foremost. She's more the cloak and dagger type, always plotting and scheming. " Landon turned serious. "Girls are infinitely more scheming than boys. We settle business with fists and fights. Girls…they fight viciously. They don't go for bodily harm, because it's obvious they're at a disadvantage. But man, they aim their words and their actions in such a way as to cause real hurt, the emotional kind. Vicious. "
I nodded. "I noticed that, having witnessed some of Raiko's clashes with other girls. They're to be feared."
Landon hummed in agreement. "It's what our high school's resident bully came to find out eventually. He was a milder version of Evan. "
"What did you do?"
He laughed. "Well, Cole and I did mostly the guy thing: fight. Kelly, she…unmanned him. She got some of the guy's previous girlfriends to spill about his bed performances, or rather…lack thereof, and put the testimonies together in a brochure that simply managed to be everywhere in the school one day. "
"There was also a site, that went into a lot more detail. That webpage was full of pictures of him from when he was little- in diapers, crying his guts out in the park from a scrape, stuff like that."
"But come on, we all have those pictures."
"Yeah, of course we do. But do you want anyone else seeing them at this point? Teenagers our age are all about appearances, Matt. It didn't matter that each and everyone one of them has that picture from three days after they're born, where they're buck naked and grinning stupidly at what-the-fuck-ever. It didn't matter that all of them went crying to their mommy every time they so much as stubbed their toe. They ripped him apart. "
"Wow. But how did she get the pictures?"
Landon chuckled. "It was rather simple, actually. She went to his house on a Saturday morning when she knew he wasn't at home- he'd been at a party of one of his friends the previous night and most of the times he stayed over. So Kelly went to his door, smiled charmingly at his mother and pretended to be his new girlfriend coming in search of her wayward boyfriend. His mother was a pretty decent woman. She did what most mothers would do- she invited Kelly in and started chatting. One thing led to another and it was enough for Kelly to mention pictures and his mother got out the family album. Another few 'ohh!' and 'ah!' and 'he was so cute!' and she got herself enough pictures to put together an album of her own."
I thought it over. "That was kind of… low, somehow. His mother had trusted Kelly with those." I didn't like it. It felt cheap and dirty, taking advantage of someone's trust like that.
"You're perfectly right. The thing was, the situation was slightly different that it is here." He sighed. "Michael's my friend and after what went on in our high school, Evan pisses me off. But when it comes down to it, I didn't have to involve myself directly. They wouldn't have picked on me, or if they had, they'd have given up pretty soon. Back home, we were right in the middle of things. Luke- the fucktard- had tried to force himself on Kelly. She broke the jaw of her boyfriend at that time. It was…personal. "
"Oh, damn. I'm sorry, Landon."
"It's okay. He didn't get far with Kelly. Like I told you, she's not shrinking violet, and we found her pretty fast. But her boyfriend dumped he afterwards- which was no loss, really, since he proved to be such a coward- and still. Touching her was unacceptable."
I nodded. "You're right." I still didn't sit well with me, but… I could understand.
"You rarely win if you fight by the rules, Matt. There's no referee like in sports, to put a stop to it once things get too far. With these kinds of things, there really are no rules. If you're the hunted, than you either wait to be devoured, or you turned into the hunter. "
I didn't like it, not at all. Maybe because I recognized the truth of what he was saying, or maybe because I refused it to be my truth, but I changed the subject and chose to ask him something that had been bothering me.
"Did you….I mean, were you, ever… with either of them?"
"Huh? What?" Landon's brow furrowed, a quizzing look on his face. " You mean, me and… Oh. Oh, shit." He looked horrified. "Oh, no. No, no, no. " He laughed. "At all. Never. It's never even been an issue."
"How could it not? I mean…" I blushed a little. "The three of you are really good-looking."
Landon mock-frowned at me. "I don't know if I should be flattered you think I'm hot, or jealous you also think Cole's sexy."
"Oh, no, I never meant that…" I saw his grin an punched his chest lightly. "You jerk."
"You're so easy, baby." He kissed me soundly. "But back to the matter at hand. No, I never had anything going on with either Cole or Kelly. We're all bisexual, but while I go more for guys, Cole leans more towards girls. Kelly likes boys just fine, but we never thought of each other like that. They're like my…siblings. No, not like. They are my siblings, in every way that counts. And I'm not into incest."
"Oh. " I hid my face into his neck to hide my embarrassment. "I'm sorry, it's just that…"
"There's no need to worry, baby. None at all. I'm here with you, aren't I?"
Yes. Yes, he was. And with how good things were, there really was no need for my neurosis. My insecurities were mine alone, and it was up to me to make sure they don't get in our way.