Chapter 12: The Second Date

I've been feeling bummed out all week. Thank God it's Thursday.

I've been having problems concentrating, I've been ornery to pretty much everyone, and I can't seem to get myself out of bed in the morning. I almost bit Jake's head off when he made a small joke at my expense and balked at any plans from anyway. Frankly, I wouldn't have put up with myself this week if I was someone else.

I wish I could say I knew why I felt depressed for most of the week, but frankly I don't.

…Well, I have my ideas, but it's too late to fix them now.

Today's been much different. I'm very much looking forward to tonight. I told Brandon I wanted to do something low key and quiet for both our sakes. Nothing fancy, just the two of us sitting down and talking. I didn't even care if he came over and I made dinner for him, but then I realized that might not be such a good idea, what with my bedroom within tempting distance. So instead I thought of something a little different, a small Italian restaurant in the Northeast. I remember it a lot from my childhood, and even though it's a little hole-in-the-wall and you wouldn't know about it unless you knew someone who went there, the food is amazing. Plus there are a total of seven tables in the entire restaurant, so I figured there wouldn't be a ton of people to recognize Brandon.

So here I am, at quarter to six in the evening, finishing getting ready for the date. This isn't a place to get too dressed up, but I always want to make a good impression and look like I care, so I grabbed a nice T-shirt from my bureau and threw it on over the jeans I've been wearing for the last couple of days.

Before you think I'm weird, I like wearing jeans in. I find them most comfortable after a few days of wear. But the rule is, once they start smelling, it's time to go in the hamper for the wash.

So I definitely look a good kind of presentable. The kind that says you're not trying too hard to impress but it sorta happens anyway. That kind of presentable.

Okay, now I'm obsessing over myself in the mirror. I'm gonna turn into one of those people that just stares at himself in the mirror all day and thinks he's just so adorable.

"You know, your face is going to get stuck like that if you aren't careful." Danny saunters into the room, amused by the fact that today I'm in a great mood and all the other days I've been taking out the brunt of my aggression on our third roommate. Then again, the fact that he and Shawn have been having wild, loud sex for the past three days in his bedroom in the middle of the night haven't been helping either.

For someone that seems to be "over" Shawn, Jake doesn't turn him away when sex was involved.

"Shut up, Danny," I make a nasty face in response then turn around to smack him over the head, but of course he dodges out of the way just in time and throws himself on my bed stomach first. He does this because he thinks it's funny. I think it's just annoying.

"What do you want, Danny? I'm trying to get ready and get out of here in…" I look at my watch and realize I've been fussing around for ten minutes now. Damn. "…five minutes. So whatever it is you want, make it fast."

"Geez, why are you so moody? I thought you'd be in a good mood today now that you're going on this date." Danny picks up my phone from my nightstand and starts playing with it absentmindedly. "Jake brought Shawn over again. They're in the living room."

"Again? I'm sick of seeing that kid's face getting all scrunched up and judgmental every time he sees me." I'm supposed to be in a good mood, God damn it, and that kid just gets in my way. "God, what is his problem with me?"

Danny shrugs. "Who cares? He's just some guy who puts out. In a way, he's a perfect match for Jake."

I laugh as my phone buzzes in Danny's hand. "Ooh, a text from Brandon! Let's read it!"

"Give me my phone back!" I go to grab my phone from Danny's hand, but he rolls over in my bed, trying to keep the phone away from me because he thinks it's funny. He rolls around in the bed as I try to grab the phone from his hand. Eventually, I grab it, but I find myself in a precarious position right over Danny.

"Uh, dude, not that I'm not flattered or whatever, but…you're not my type." He laughs hilariously. I try and get mad as I check the message from Brandon, saying that he's downstairs waiting for me, but I can't help but laugh. Danny can be an asshole sometimes, but he's always the same old loveable Danny. If he wasn't so confidently straight, I'd marry him in a second.

No time. I throw myself off my bed and straighten myself up. "All right, I'm heading out for the evening, but I'll be back. Stay clear of the scary boys in the living room and what they're doing to each other. I'll explain the bees and the bees when I get home, okay?"

Danny laughs. "Daddy, is this when other Daddy mounts you?"

We are some sick individuals.

I grab my keys and my wallet and quickly walk out of the room, paying no attention to the sucking noises I hear coming from the living room. I heard Shawn and Jake say something behind me, but I close the door before they say anything of actual substance. Not that what they were saying was going to be of substance anyway. Okay, that was a little mean.

"Hey," Brandon gives me a little hug and a peck on the cheek when I step out of the elevator into the lobby. I'm thrown a little bit, thinking it was going to be a bit warmer and bigger, but then I remember we promised each other we were going to take this slow and steady. It would be hard with me seeing his amazing smile and hot body before, but the effort was certainly well worth it.

"Hey yourself. Ready to go?" I give a little smile to him and give a little head nod to the front door. He walks next to me out of the building, and I can tell he's a little tense. I can also tell he wants to hold my hand a little bit. Taking the bull by the horns, I decide there's no harm to by actually holding his hand, and when I do, I feel him relax. He opens the door (such a gentleman!) and we get into the car for the forty-five minute drive to the almost-suburbs and the smells and sounds of Trattoria di Napoli.

We pull up to the restaurant parking lot in record time, though I'm pretty sure I left my stomach back at home. He opens the car door for me, and we walk into the little place. The hostess and the waitresses all recognize me, and they look at Brandon as though they could possibly place him in some photo they've seen. I immediately clamp up as we take our seats. I already know what I want, and order the five-cheese ravioli because I remember it to be amazing, but I'm still worried about Brandon being recognized. For his part, Brandon's making great conversation, and by the time the waitress brings out the food, I'm cool as a cucumber.

"How'd you find this place, anyway?" Brandon twirls fettuccine noodles around his fork absent-mindedly then sticks the makeshift noodlesicle into his mouth. I focus for a second longer than I should have staring at his mouth and realizing I should probably see someone about these issues of mine.

"Oh, uh, my parents used to take me here a lot when I was younger. It was one of the few places I used to love when I was a kid, since I was such a picky eater." Seriously, other than Italian food – and I mean good Italian food, not the Olive Garden, that's cheating – I basically lived off of cereal and yogurt until I was eleven. I take a bite of my ravioli. Damn, it was still amazing.

I moan a little bit, and Brandon laughs.

"I see you still like the place." We both laugh at my ridiculousness until the waitress showed up and asked us if we were okay. Having a foodgasm in a small restaurant isn't exactly being inconspicuous, but hey, I'm only human.

"You know, you look a lot like one of the players on the As." The waitress eyes Brandon rather curiously, and a lump forms in the back of my throat. Oh, God. The dreaded moment when your date gets recognized and it ends up all over the news. Wait, what am I saying? This hasn't happened to me before.

This must happen quite often, because all Brandon does is laugh and say, "Yeah, I get that a lot." I have to say, if it was me I would be freaking out right about now, and emphatically deny ever even knowing myself, with flailing arm movements and violent head shaking. "…Oh, what's his name again?" Okay, Brandon, now you're just being a ham.

"Oh, uh, I'm not sure, I'm not a big baseball fan." And with that, the waitress walks away. Crisis averted.

Brandon and I look at each other, and it takes all of my strength not to burst out laughing.

"So you're going to grad school for anth…anthropology, right? Why…uh, that…?" Brandon looks cute stuttering over the word anthropology. Like he just spoke a foreign language, and even though he didn't pronounce it completely correctly, it doesn't matter because he's trying and adorable.

"Well, um. It was sort-of an idea I had when I was a freshman in high school." I put my fork down; I sense some wild gesturing from me going to happen. I tend to gesture wildly when I talk about things. My mother once had her eye poked out. It wasn't fun. "I've always wanted to help people. Help the world. So I became interested in other people, people who were different than me."

"So that led you to your choice in grad school studies?"

"Well, it actually led me to a class trip to India." I smile a little as I remember almost falling out of a window on the train ride to Darjeeling. "Which led me to go for anthropology." I take one last bit of my ravioli and push it away. I am full. "But still, someday I want to work for a charity. I'm hoping for AmfAR or, heck, even UNESCO. Something that'll make a difference."

"Well, aren't you a regular bleeding heart." Brandon pauses for a second, looks down at his plate, and then glances back at me with a smile on his face. "But seriously, that's…kinda amazing. I wish I had as much excitement for anything like you just showed for charities." He pouts a little, trying to act all sad and stuff. Why is it that the stupid pout always works for me?

But then I pull a Scooby-Doo surprise face. "Wait a minute. Uh, hello. What about baseball?"

Brandon looks off a little into the distance. "You got me there. Though I originally went to school for…for business administration." He makes a face like he just said "weapons of mass destruction." Obviously he wasn't such a fan of what he was studying, and when I ask him about it, he responds with a chortle. I so like using that word. Chortle. "It was my dad's idea. He went to UNC and felt I should do the same. I was recruited into the minor leagues before I completed my sophomore year. Thank god, because I was at the risk of failing out anyway."

"How long have you been playing baseball, anyway?"

"Since the age of six. I also played football, too, but I much preferred baseball. So here I am."

"Since the age of six, huh? That's a lot of dedication."

Brandon grabs my hand and holds it between his. "Well, when you find something you like, you…you don't wanna give it up."

Oh, God. We're having a total romance movie moment. Staring into each other's eyes, and a leaning into the table. We're totally going to kiss.

We're literally an inch apart when I utter the line. "Seriously, that is the cheesiest line I have ever heard."

And another laugh fest begins, and this time I'm about to turn red. The two of us are sitting at the table, hysterically laughing our heads off. I don't think I've ever laughed this hard in my entire life.

"Okay, okay. Now that I can breathe…" Barely. "…so, you said you're out to your mother. When did you tell her?"

"Oh, uh, I was 19. Actually, it was a month before I was recruited. She wasn't exactly happy, but at the very least she didn't want to send me to some camp to heal me like I'm pretty sure my father would. But of course I knew long before that."

I cock my head to the side. "Interesting."

"Yeah, by pretty much fourteen I knew. Didn't really stop me from losing my virginity to a woman, but…"

I feel like I've just been slapped across the face. "Wait, I'm sorry. Hold the phone. Did you just say…?"

"Yeah, I lost my virginity to my high school girlfriend. Stacey Kulweski. She was a cheerleader, so obviously it was a token romance. Looking back now, it was ridiculous."

"And the first time you had sex with a man?"

"College roommate. Chris Swanson. God I loved college." There's a pause in the air. Awkward. "So how about you, stud muffin? Answer those questions you just pondered to me."

"Well, my parents pretty much knew. Conversations would usually start with, 'Is there something you want to tell us?' and I knew it was going to go downhill from there. I finally told them when I was 15." Amongst Brandon's shouting of "Finally?" I continue on. "First time was with Brian Mulroney…I nicknamed him the tank; he was a closeted football player...and we did it (well, I blew him) after musical practice behind the stage curtains."

"Mr. Adventurous. I like it."

I throw my napkin at him. "Okay, final question. Tell me something I don't know."

"Well, I was a vegetarian for four years. Doesn't go very well down South. Pretty much turned into a string bean." Brandon takes the last bite of his chicken from the fettuccine alfredo for effect. Om nom nom. So obviously he is a vegetarian no longer. He motions to me to respond in turn, and when I tell him I'm ambidextrous, he asks me to prove it.

"Fine." I take the pen the waitress laid down with our check when we told her we didn't want anything else, and start to write with my left hand. Then I switch to my right, and my writing is the same. Comes in handy in a plethora of situations.

Brandon looks at the writing. "I can't even tell. That's cool."

I had him the pen as he has made it perfectly clear that I'm not paying for tonight. What a gentleman.

## ##

"So, did you have a good time?" We're sitting back in front of my apartment on one of the benches in an inconspicuous corner. I'm cuddled up against Brandon as he's kissing my head and making circles with his finger on my waist. "I mean, I didn't scare you away or anything, right?"

I look up at him and smile. "No, you most certainly did not. I enjoyed myself thoroughly."

"Good, I'm glad." He sneaks a kiss, two kisses in on the lips, and I'm most certainly not complaining. "Would you want to go on a third date?" When I nod emphatically, he smiles and holds me even tighter. We sit and cuddle for a good twenty minutes until I'm almost freezing my nips off and realize it's time to call it a night. But not, of course, without one final kiss.

As I wave goodbye to Brandon and walk back into my apartment building, I'm floating on Cloud Nine. I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen between us, and I still have doubts that this is actually happening, but for now I'm just going to live in the here and now and just accept that for the moment that we're happy as clams. Sure, for the past week I've been wishing that maybe I shouldn't have opened my big fat mouth and said that he and I were rushing into things with our sex-induced commitment, but I guess I can't take that back now.

Still, as I get into the elevator, I can still see into Brandon's eyes, and my heart fills with just a small twinge of worry. I don't want this good feeling to end, and I just hope to God that what I'm feeling is real.

Baby, you light up my world like nobody else, but you don't know you're beautiful. ~ One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful"

I know, I know, I've taken my sweet ass time AGAIN, but I must admit this chapter was a hard one to write. I started writing it almost three weeks ago, and only tonight have I finished it. But you'll be happy to know that I've already written the outline for the next chapter, so at least I'm going to go in with the hope that I'll finish it rather quickly. I love all of you guys for the story alerts, the likes, the comments, the mad love you have for this little family I've created.

In the meantime, I must get to bed. I have a new job as of three weeks ago (a 9-5 Monday through Friday one at that!) so I must get my beauty rest.

Until next time!