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For The Fans: Chapter 23

Kyran

i.throw.a.frisbee01: you both are so cute together btw what size are you? My mouth would be the perfect fit.

BoozyBaby: I would give anything for someone to look at me the way Backwardz_Cap looks at you Not_Your_Baby.

The Eagles are going to the fucking Rose Bowl.

Last night, we played our final playoff game of the season against Ohio State. And we won

Barely.

It was one of the worst games I’ve played in my life. We were down for most of it, and let’s just say, it was mainly my fault. I couldn’t focus. I was scattered, torn-up, distracted and just off. As Austin Powers would say, I’d lost my mojo.

The defense and our running backs carried the game well into the third quarter, and Coach was fucking irate. He’s never screamed at me the way he did last night… I thought the vein in his forehead was going to pop.

Our defensive players really showed their skills, keeping the Buckeyes’s scoring down as best they could. By the fourth quarter, we were trailing them by two touchdowns and a field goal. That was when Guty stepped in.

We’d just recovered the ball from an interception thrown by Ohio’s QB. We were on their twenty-five-yard line when Coach called a timeout, and Guty grabbed me pretty much by the scruff of my neck.

“Kyran, listen to me.” He got in close to my face, somehow whispering and shouting at the same time. “I don’t know what’s going on with you, but it ends now, you got it?? You have come too far to lose this because of some funk. Whatever’s got you all fucked up, just set it aside and focus on doing you.”

I could barely breathe, I was so overwhelmed. Every single thing was weighing on me, like brick and mortar being stacked right on top of my shoulders. The insecurities I spend all day every day stuffing down were coming up my throat and out of my pores.

You’re not good enough.

You’re weak. You’re worthless.

You’re scared.

This is the real you… Not the superstar they see on the outside.

You’re a pathetic, broken little failure…

Why would you think he’d ever want you?

The noise of the crowd shouting and hollering for the other team swarmed me, growing so loud I was downright quaking.

My lungs were tight as I closed my eyes and shook my head… “I’m gonna lose this game, bro. I don’t know what I’m doing… I think I’m h-having a p-panic attack…”

Guty’s fingers dug into my shoulders, and he shook me hard until my eyes snapped open. “Cut the shit, Nueve! That’s not you. You’re the best goddamn quarterback in the division, and you don’t go down without a fight.”

Those words stuck in my head, a memory shimmering… of Avi, dressed up in his stupid eagle costume, telling me the same thing.

“You don’t go down without a fight… Trust me, I know.”

The thought of it brought a shivering grin to my lips, and I huffed a small chuckle.

He looks like such an idiot in that mascot outfit… The way he does the Moonwalk and the Electric Slide. Such a damn goofball, I swear to God.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” his voice rung through my mind.

“It’s not over…” I muttered, straightening my shoulders. “It’s not fucking over.”

“Damn fucking straight!” Guty shouted, slapping me hard on the back. “Now let’s go fucking win this thing, baby!”

I’m not your baby… My grin widened, and I slapped my hands together, muscles stiffening with determination. I’m his.

“Let’s fucking do this!” I smashed my helmet into Guty’s while he growled back.

After that, I was on a mission. A mission to undo the mess I’d made of this game. Within thirty seconds, I sunk a touchdown pass to Guty.

On our next drive, another.

Everyone around me was freaking the fuck out, but for the first time all night, I was calm. I was in my zone… And every time I glanced at the sidelines, I imagined Baldwin the fucking Eagle over there doing his stupid hip-thrust thing. It made me laugh, and people probably thought I was nuts, but whatever.

I would not lose tonight. It was the only thing in the world of which, at that point, I was fully certain.

With thirty seconds left in the game, we just needed to get into field goal range so Theo could work his magic. But I had other plans.

At the snap, I two-stepped, locking eyes on my best friend, the best damn wide receiver in the ACC, maybe in the whole division, as he took off down the field. He was like the fucking Roadrunner, sprinting like a maniac, breaking so far from the Buckeyes’s defense, there was no way they’d ever catch up to him.

And then I launched the ball like a fucking rocket blasting off into outer space, damn near dislocating my shoulder to send it sailing in a perfect spiral. It was a long-shot… The longest I’d ever attempted.

But it sloped right into Guty’s reaching arms at the ten-yard line. Eighty-two yards up the field. And he jogged his way into the end zone to win us the game.

What an incredible high, man. Coming back from one of the most disastrous games I’d ever played, to throwing the longest touchdown pass, not only of my career, but of the season as a whole… One of the longest the league has ever seen. Smashing all kinds of records. It was the biggest rush of my life.

But when my thrilled gaze flew to the sidelines, he wasn’t there… The mascot.

And my smile faded a bit, homesickness setting in with some other things… Regret and unrest. The win would have felt much better at home, that was for sure.

But in the moment, I pushed past it enough to focus on celebrating with my teammates. We would play for the Division I Championship.

Just one more big victory calling my name.

We had some fun last night in Ohio, but it was agreed upon by all that the real partying would commence when we got back to Boston. Guty and I are throwing a huge party tonight in our dorm. In fact, the entire floor will be raging as a whole.

And I’m excited, yes. But I’m also racked with the same anxious uncertainty that’s been plaguing me for days.

I haven’t talked to Avi at all since our fight. Not a word… Radio silence.

Dozens of times over the week leading up to the game, I considered going over there to see him. To apologize for walking out when I know all he wanted was for me to stay.

But every time I’d put my shoes on and go for the door, something would stop me. I hate to think that it’s fear… But I’m sure that’s exactly what it is.

Because I do want to see him… I want to see him so bad.

I want to tell him I’m sorry for being an asshole about the OnlyFans, and making the whole shitty situation about me. I’ve gone over what happened in my brain hundreds of times, and I can’t get past what a whiny, entitled ass-hat I was being.

Yes, I’m still nervous as hell about people from school finding Avi’s account. I’m scared that they’ll figure out it was me in those videos and I’ll be kicked off the team, or worse… Kicked out of school altogether. Disgraced for making gay porn for money, and doomed to spend the rest of my life working some menial job…

Living at home, with those nightmares.

It would be an epic disaster, but still… I handled the whole thing wrong. I should’ve stayed and talked to Avi about it instead of just fighting with him and running away.

After I told him I wanted to stay, too…

I’m sure he’s back to hating my fucking guts. That must be why he hasn’t texted or called me once in the week since our fight… Not even to congratulate me on the game. It’s ripping me up inside.

But the fear of what he was saying that night… of how close we came to something that still frightens me down to my core… it’s kept me firmly planted in place. Back in my warm bubble of avoidance and denial, which doesn’t feel so warm anymore now that I know how much warmer it is when I poke my head out.

That one week, from Christmas to New Years, was the best time of my whole life. And I can shove it down, keep pretending it was just sex, or something to pass the time, but no one’s buying that shit anymore. Not even me.

And to make matters worse, tomorrow is the team banquet. Every member of the team is supposed to be there with their families, including the mascot. I don’t know if Avi plans on attending…

So even as we’re setting things up, preparing to get wild and rowdy tonight in the name of epic celebration, there’s still this awareness itching inside me, knowing full well that when the shots are flowing and the music is bumping, and the girls are surrounding me with flirtatious looks and teasing touches, all I’ll want to do is what I’ve been doing for months now…

Leave the stupid party and go over to his place instead.

Because it’s where I really want to be.

And I don’t want to wait for that to inevitably happen. I need to talk to him now. To figure out what’s going on with us…

If there even is an us, without the fans.

“Hey…” I mumble to Guty, who’s lugging things around in preparation of the party, which is supposed to start in a couple of hours. “I’ve gotta run out for a sec.”

Stepping into my shoes, I pull my coat on. I’m actually going this time.

“You’ll be back for the party, right?” he asks, arranging bottles of liquor on the counter. “Lots of luscious ladies eager to get their hands on Number Nine Inches.”

He cackles at the look of horror on my face. “Please stop calling me that. It makes it seem like you’ve spent time personally getting to know my dick.”

He grins and winks, though his eyes are lingering on me in a studious way that has me bolting for the door.

I know it’s all in my head. If Guty heard some kind of rumor about me having sex with Avi on OnlyFans, he definitely would’ve said something.

I’m dashing into the hall as he calls out, “You better be back here for this party!”

No promises, bro.

Nerves and angst are tumbling around in my stomach like clothes in a dryer while I stomp up the road to the Thomas More Apartments. My heart is in my throat for every agonizing second of the elevator ride to the fourth floor, fingers wiggling, toe tapping rapidly to match the race of my pulse. When the doors finally open, I step out into the hall, sucking in long gulps of air with each step until I’m in front of his door…

446. The place that feels more like home to me than any other…

Because it’s where he is.

Knocking on the door, I shift awkwardly, feeling like I should have called first. But this is what I do. I show up here unannounced, and he lets me in. It’s our thing.

Except that this time, when the door flings open, I’m greeted by a different person. Literally.

A guy with shaggy black hair and a lip piercing, who looks awfully familiar for some reason, is standing inside the dorm in nothing but his boxers, eating an apple.

I’m so stunned, I feel like Medusa just turned me to stone.

“May we help you?” the guy chirps, chewing and swallowing while I gawk at him, not breathing, not blinking.

My heart isn’t even beating anymore.

“Uh… Avi…” The words croak from inside my throat, and I clear it. “Is Avi… here?”

His lips curl and he chomps into another bite of his apple, stepping aside to call out, “Aviel, darling! Someone’s here for you.” He peeks at me and smirks. “He’ll be right out. Come in, mate. Take a load off.”

That accent… He’s Australian.

Inching my way inside the dorm, my gaze narrows in disbelief. “Ash Holloway??”

“In the flesh.” He bows, chuckling to himself. And my eye is twitching.

The dude who stole my girlfriend in high school… is here now? In Avi’s fucking dorm, half naked??

Is this some kind of sick joke?!

I feel like I might collapse, the reality of what’s going on smacking me upside the head so hard I have to grip the side of the kitchen island to keep from falling down.

Why is he here…? Why isn’t he wearing clothes??

Oh my God, is Avi in the shower?!

The panic attack is back with a vengeance, and I bend at the waist, breathing in as best I can, struggling to fend it off.

“Kyran…”

My face tips up as Avi saunters into the room, fully clothed and not appearing freshly showered. Still, it’s not exactly a comfort with emo asshole over there, crunching on fruit and staring at us.

Avi rushes up to me fast, his eyes wide. “What are you doing here??”

“Sorry…” I gasp, straightening and attempting a glare, though it still feels like my heart is being squeezed between two big hands. “Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” he whispers, pushing me farther into the kitchen for some privacy as he peeks at Ash. “It’s not what it looks like, Kyran, I swear to God…”

“Why is he here?” I growl, eyes flinging to Ash, who skips into the living room, plopping down on the couch like he owns the place. “Why is he not… clothed??”

“That’s just how he walks around, apparently.” Avi runs his hand through his hair. “He’s my roommate. He just showed up the other day… I guess he was, like, in rehab or something, and he just got out.” He bites his lip, the foggy blue in his eyes glistening with pleading sincerity. “Please believe me, nothing happened.”

I can’t help the wave of relief that washes over me at his words, the tightness in my chest easing up a bit. I don’t think he’s lying to me… He doesn’t seem like he’s lying.

Nodding subtly, I try to remember why I came here and what I was going to say, but it’s all been smashed to bits by the fact that there’s another person in our shared space. The place that’s been just ours for so long… is now infested with one asshole intruder.

“I… I just came to…” My voice trails when Ash gets up and trots over to us, tossing his apple core in the garbage right next to me. Lowering to a whisper, I lean in closer to Avi. “I wanted to talk to you… to apolog—”

“Holy fucking shit!” Ash gasps, and we both glare at him. “Now I remember where I know you from! We all went to high school together!” He laughs and shakes his head. “You’re Avi’s stepbrother, am I right?”

My teeth are clenched together so tightly I can almost feel them snapping. “Yea… And you fucked my girlfriend senior year.”

He brings a hand to his chest like he’s appalled. “I did that?” I nod, seething at him through my eyes. His brows furrow. “I’m sorry, mate. I was pretty messed up senior year. It’s all a bit of a blur…”

“Her name was Becca Hansen,” I mutter, and he purses his lips.

“Ohhh, right, right. I think I remember,” he sighs, rubbing his hands together. “I decided to try girls again for a while there.” His chin tips in Avi’s direction and he winks. “Always fun to mix it up.”

Avi’s lashes flutter, his gaze shifting uncomfortably to me as he gives me a look I can’t really read. I don’t know if he’s trying to convey annoyance for this dude who just popped up out of nowhere, or if he’s tense because they’ve been hooking up… Since apparently, they’re both bi and living together, and the guy just walks around in his underwear like he’s displaying some seductive mating call.

God, I fucking hate this. I need to get the hell out of here.

“Well, it’s been fun catching up, but I better get going,” I grunt through gritted teeth, staggering to the door.

“Kyran, wait.” Avi follows me, grabbing my arm before I can reach for the handle. “Don’t leave yet. We can go somewhere and talk…”

My body turns to him on its own, breaths shallowing at the way his smell is suddenly overwhelming my senses. It reminds me of Christmas…

I bite my lip, our eyes locked together while his plead for me to stay, and mine display how much I really fucking want to. But then I peer past him, at Ash goddamn Holloway, who’s just lingering there, watching us curiously.

My spine stiffens, and I shake my head. “Nope, that won’t be necessary. I just came over to… invite you to a party in my dorm tonight.”

Avi’s forehead lines, and he cringes when Ash starts singing, “Party party partyyy! We are so there!”

Gulping, I shoot Avi a furiously helpless look, cocking my brow. We??

He mouths the words “nothing happened,” shaking his head firmly like he really wants me to believe him. really want to believe him…

But I just sigh, exhausted by this whole ordeal, as I turn back to the door. “Alright, then. I’ll see you both in a few hours.”

Pulling open the door, I hear Ash crooning, “Bye!” Then he whispers to Avi, “What’s his name again??”

Kyran,” Avi growls, and Ash hollers, “Byee, Kyran!”

Slamming the door behind me, I stomp up the hall, fuming my way into the elevator. But once I’m inside, I collapse into the wall, fisting hands in my hair.

What the fuck?? It wasn’t supposed to happen like that…

This party officially has disaster written all over it.


Music is thumping. Drinks are flowing.

Kyran is obsessing, Kyran is raging.

I’ve been doing my best to forget what happened earlier, by drinking as much as it takes to subdue my racing thoughts, but even that isn’t working. Now, instead of simply fixating on all the bullshit in my life, I’m doing so while intoxicated, which only doubles the frustration, confusion, and general agony I’ve been feeling for a week.

Avi still hasn’t made an appearance, and I can’t stop thinking about the reason for his absence…

Is he hooking up with Ash?

Are they banging out a quickie before the party?

Are they filming themselves fucking for Avi’s new and improved OnlyFans, because all he really needed was a body and now I’ve been replaced??

I’m probably fucking insane… In fact, I know I am. But I can’t fight away the idea that the reason Avi was so bummed about shutting down the OnlyFans was because he just loves the attention. And since I’m the one who can’t be a part of it anymore, it would only make sense that he’d find someone new to fuck for money.

Spiraling, I bring my cup to my lips, taking a large gulp of some potent drink Bea gave me. Theo invited her, and in turn, she invited all of her friends, like Micah and Frankie, and the judgy one who wears the ostentatious outfits… What’s his name again?

Oh yea. Zeb.

The one who knows about the OnlyFans.

I’ve been watching him casually since he got here, and not once has he given me a smirky look that would indicate him having seen me get fucked by my stepbrother. He’s not even paying any attention to me at all, and dread slowly retreats as I consider that maybe I did overreact.

Avi was right. My face was never in any of the content. Someone would have to really be digging to piece it together, and I just don’t see random kids at BC going through that kind of detective work for no reason.

I just feel fucking stupid about the whole thing. To blame Avi was a low blow, and the guilt is still churning in my gut. After all, I agreed to it. I’m a consenting adult.

I wasn’t coerced or tricked. I chose to have sex on camera because I needed the money, and whatever happens, I should have to suffer the consequences right alongside my partner. Business partner.

Former

Ugh.

Glancing across the room, I spot Frankie, and she looks up, locking her eyes with mine. She shoots me this sympathetic smile, and though it could be because of the mess I find myself in, something about it feels heavier than that.

It feels like the look someone gives you when they know you’re dealing with a break-up, and it makes my skin crawl.

Avi and I didn’t break up. We were never together.

We’re just friends and stepbrothers.

The business is over, that’s all…

Swallowing hard, my lips part, and Frankie starts walking over like she’s coming to talk to me, sucking me in with the magnetic need to confide in someone. I’m getting so damn sick of always carrying everything around myself. Just this once, I want to be able to break down and spill my guts.

But before she can make it over, two new people burst into the room.

Both tall, dark-haired emo boys with painted fingernails and rips in their black jeans. Except that one is a scrawny asshole, and the other is… Well, he’s Avi.

Ash saunters into the room, dragging Avi along by his arm, and I feel like I’m being stabbed repeatedly in the chest by a blunt object just seeing them arrive together… touching. Frankie greets them, whispering something to Avi as she kisses his cheek. And Avi’s gaze immediately flings in my direction, his eyes somehow shimmering both desire and unease my way.

Avi says hello to his friends, and my feet are anchored to the floor, even though I’m vibrating with this overwhelming urge to walk over to him.

But I don’t.

I just stand here, sipping my millionth cocktail of the evening, watching him speak to Zeb, who’s giving him a sly look, whispering things that have Avi rolling his eyes—most likely about the Fans. But neither of them looks over here, so I guess that means I’m alright for now. My reputation is safe, and I can breathe easier.

should be able to… But it still doesn’t seem to be happening as easily as I’d like it to.

In an effort to distract myself, I allow a few of my teammates to pull me into a game of beer pong, schooling them all, as usual, even with only partial focus, while the majority of it remains across the room.

Ash is hanging all over Avi, throwing his arm around Avi’s shoulder and speaking way too close to his ear. I’m trying not to let it bother me, but when Avi pulls away, and Ash’s hand slides casually down the length of his back, I end up crushing one of the ping-pong balls in my fist.

The booze swimming in my bloodstream is making things hazy, some song by The Weekend weaving its smooth beats all around the room packed with grinding bodies. A few different girls are looking at me, some of them coming over to flirt and giggle and touch my chest. But I just keep inching away because it doesn’t feel right. And the fact that it doesn’t is stressing me out even more.

A hand much larger than those of the girls drops onto my shoulder, and my face shifts. His scent gives him away before our eyes even meet. But then they do, and a blue that looks like storm clouds locks me in place and shallows my breathing.

“Hey…” Avi rumbles, casually enough, though his gaze is saying way more than just that one stupid word. “Can we talk?”

I start to nod like an instinct. But then I glance around at all the people, and I shake my head instead. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Bringing my cup to my lips, I nod in the direction of his friends. “It’s a party. Just go have fun.”

“Kyran, don’t do this,” he sighs, audibly upset, but keeping his voice down so no one overhears us. “You made your point, and the business is done, but… is that really it?” He blinks at me; a fluttering look of gloom.

“I don’t know what you want me to say…” I shrug, my body pulling this unaffected bullshit while my heart is screaming something completely different.

He licks his lips, running his fingers through his hair. “I want you to tell me I was wrong… that ending it didn’t end it.” He looks around quickly before whispering, “Us.”

And I do want to tell him that. I know I do, but I fucking can’t. Because it doesn’t make any sense.

I can’t have feelings for him, because I’m not gay.

That’s the truth, the same one I’ve been clinging to like a child clutches his blankie. I can’t fucking deal with accepting anything else. It’s too big, too confusing.

Too much.

“But us was just an act.” I choke out the words. “For the fans… Remember? That’s all it was supposed to be, the whole time.” Rubbing my eyes, I let out a jagged sigh. “Fuck, Avi, I didn’t ask for any of this…”

The look on his face is slaughtering me. He’s all helpless frustration in those wide gray eyes… I can’t stand seeing it.

This is why I didn’t go over there all week. This is what stopped me… Having to see him looking at me like that.

“Stop being such a coward and admit that this is just you running away again,” he hisses. “God, you’re so afraid to admit that something changed—”

“You’re right,” I bark quietly, cutting him off. “Something did change. I stopped hating you. We’re brothers, friends. And that’s a good fucking thing, Avi.” I shake my head slowly. “But that’s all. It has to be…”

He squares his shoulders, jaw clenching as he murmurs right by my ear, “You never really hated me, Kyran. We both know you didn’t…”

Then he turns and storms away, leaving me shaking and chugging the rest of my drink in two large gulps.

My limbs are heavy as I watch him return to his friends, wedging himself in between Micah and Ash. Ash slings his arm around Avi’s shoulder once more, grinning at him, and Avi’s lips curve into one of his carefree smiles.

Grabbing the nearest bottle, I pour a bunch into some cups and shout, “Who wants shots?!” To which a bunch of people cheer, rushing over.

Lexi wanders up to me, smooshing her boobs into my side as she takes a cup. Tapping mine on hers, I whip it back, handing a few out to nearby people while she scoots up to whisper in my ear.

“I can’t wait to see you looking all sexy in your suit tomorrow night,” she hums, trailing her nails down my back.

I’m so numb I can barely feel it.

I tilt a bemused look at her, and she giggles. “For the banquet, silly.”

“Right,” I slur. “The fuckin banquet.” I gulp back another shot. “How could I forget…”

“I think you’ll love my dress.” Her lips brush my face, and I flinch. “Who knows… maybe I won’t be wearing anything underneath.”

“Hm…” I grumble, uninterested, as my eyes flick across the room once more.

Avi and his friends are now sitting on the couch…. And Ash’s hand is on Avi’s thigh.

I swallow past a sharp stab in my chest, mumbling, “Look, Lexi… whatever we did in the past… I’m sorry, but it’s over.”

“Over??” she gasps. “Why?”

Inching away from her roaming hands, I huff, “Because it could never work. I’m… into someone else.”

She starts whining something, but I’m not even listening. I’m too busy watching another hand. And the way it’s roaming up and down Avi’s thigh…

Avi doesn’t look like he’s into it, but he’s also not pushing it away either.

Why do you care?? You just told him you were only friends, and you’re barely even that, anyway. You should just go back to hating him…

Prove him fucking wrong for saying you never really hated him in the first place, because you totally did.

“Yo, my baby Nueve!” Guty staggers over, handing me a new drink. “This party is litty, mi amigo.”

“Cheers to that, motherfucker.” I knock my cup against his, spilling booze everywhere as I take a sip.

“I’m gonna be so hungover tomorrow,” he grumbles. “Thank God the banquet isn’t until seven.”

“The goddamn banquet,” I scoff, staring at Ash Holloway’s shameless attempts at feeling up my stepbrother. “Why do we even have to go to that?? There are certain people I don’t wanna see, if you know what I mean…”

“I feel you, brother,” Guty hiccups.

I don’t think he’s really listening to me, but whatever. I’m too busy glaring at Avi and his new pal, hanging all over each other.

Frankie also appears to be watching the way Ash is touching Avi. She glances up at me, our eyes locking again in another one of those wordless passes of conversation. Her brows zip together, and she shakes her head subtly.

I simply purse my lips and shrug, sipping my drink.

What does she expect me to do?? Run over there, pull Ash off my stepbrother… Make a fucking scene in front of everyone to prove once and for all that this ache in my chest whenever I’m around him is real?? That every time I look at him, my stomach flips and my skin buzzes and no matter how hard I’ve tried to push it away and pretend like it’s not there, it just seems to be getting fucking stronger, to the point where I feel like pieces of my anatomy are missing when I’m not with him…

I can’t do that. Because who even knows what that stuff means, anyway…

“Where’s Theo?” I distract myself with meaningless words, spinning around to get my stupid eyes away from that stupid couch where all that dumb shit I don’t care about is happening.

“I think he left with someone…” Guty tugs on my arm. “’Who do you think I should hook up with tonight?”

“Dude, I don’t care,” I slur, eyelids drooping. “Hook up with whoever you want.” I shoot a forced smirk at him. “Who do you think I should hook up with tonight?”

Guty chuckles, pinching my cheeks while I fight him off. “You know you can hook up with whoever you want.”

“I need to hook up with someone new…” I rasp, barely even aware of what I’m saying. “I need to fuck away the last one.”

“Who…? Lexi?”

Grunting in lieu of an actual response, my eyes land on these two girls dancing. Their tits are all rubbing together and whatnot, and I start chewing on the inside of my cheek.

That totally used to do something for me… Didn’t it?

I could’ve sworn I really liked it before…

“Whoa! Hello…” Guty shouts next to my face, and I cringe. “Look at this…”

I assume he’s talking about the girls grinding on each other, and I nod, blinking heavily as I wait for my dick to remember that he likes girls.

“Man, I didn’t know your stepbrother played for both teams.” Guty chuckles.

My face swings in his direction. “What…?”

Muscles all over my body are stiffening in unease as he nods across the room. Following his gaze, my stomach falls so fast it’s like I was just shoved out of an airplane.

Avi… My chest caves, crushing my heart between my ribs as my eyes widen.

Avi is kissing Ash… Or Ash is kissing Avi. Whatever… however it’s happening, it’s happening. They’re fucking kissing.

No…

I’m fucking bleeding inside. My body is splitting down the middle, like I’m being violently bisected with rusty tools.

I can’t move. I can’t breathe. I’m just stuck here, in purgatory, staring on as Ash Holloway’s stupid bitch fingers slide up Avi’s neck into his hair, and he sucks and bites on Avi’s lips.

Those lips… I… I thought they were… for me.

I’m about to fucking fall to my knees because I just can’t keep my body upright anymore. The red solo cup is being gripped so hard in my fist, it cracks, and liquor spills down my arm.

Guty laughs and whoops. “Get some, Av!”

“No…” I whimper, then clear my throat. “No.” Tossing the cup onto the floor, I growl, “No. No, no, no. Fuck that.”

Can’t watch. Can’t let this happen.

I stomp in their direction, but Guty grabs my arm, chuckling, “Yo, what are you doing??”

“I’m gonna fucking kill that asshole,” I seethe, gasping at the sight of Avi trying to pull away from the kiss.

He’s pulling away. He doesn’t want it.

Too bad it’s already been going on for way too many seconds.

Fuck! Fuck fucking this! I hate this!

Pushing people out of the way, I storm over to the couch with wrath burning like hot molten lava in my veins.

Anger, frustration, hatred, confusion. The gang’s all here. My adrenaline is jacked right now, and I’m about to rage so hard I think I might seriously hurt someone.

Avi’s eyes are open with Ash’s mouth trailing his jaw, and they widen when he spots me. He dips away from Ash as fast as possible, crashing onto Zeb’s lab and spilling his drink everywhere.

“You bitch!” Zeb stands up, drenched in booze. “This is Prada!”

Lunging, I grab Ash Holloway by his arm, hauling him to his feet and whipping him across the room. He goes flying into a bunch of people, and everyone topples into a pile of bodies.

“Kyran! Wait—” Avi shouts.

“Dude, mellow!” Guty hollers.

But it’s too late. I’m already launching myself at Ash, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him onto the floor.

“Don’t fucking touch him!” I snarl over Ash’s face, all semblance of control lost. I may have blacked out. My body is working on total impulse, the need to destroy this fucking prick for kissing my Avi taking over every fiber of my being. “He’s not yours, you hear me?!

My fist cocks back, but someone grabs my arm. Several someones.

At least four of my teammates are holding me back, trying to pry me off of Ash, while Ash just lies there on the floor beneath me, blinking wide, baffled eyes up at my face.

“Harbor, stop!” someone says. I think it’s Fellows. “Don’t do this, bro. Think about it…”

I… don’t… fucking… care.

My anger is visceral. I can’t find my way out of it. All I see are flickers in my mind…

A dark room.

My father’s disappointed face.

A rosary wrapped around a weathered hand…

“Fuck!” I roar.

And even with four of them on me, they can barely lift me off of Ash while I fight to get back down there and bash his fucking face in for kissing those lips.

Avi’s smile slips away… When I tell him he has no clue who he is.

All the times I brushed him off… Knocked books out of his hands in high school, called him a loser in front of my friends…

All the times I walked out on him.

They’re all flashing through my thoughts, blinding me with so much emotion, I can barely breathe. Like a slideshow, it’s playing in broken clicks.

Bedsheets wrapped around us… His fingers treasuring me with touch, his hair hanging in his eyes.

Laughing, smiling, kissing, breathing…

I’m fucking drowning in it. The way it changed.

The way he became mine.

“Fucking let me go,” I grunt, sniffling as I whip myself out of their hold, jumping off of Ash and stumbling away.

Sucking air into my lungs as best I can, I keep my head down while I pant, rushing out of the dorm with Guty by my side, his hand on my back.

“It’s all good,” he calls out to the rest of the party, loud but calm. “We just need some air. Everyone’s fine.”

I can feel eyes staring at me, and it’s like a huge fluorescent interrogation light shining in my face as I stomp past the lingering bodies, up the hallway, putting space between me and this prying situation.

Adrenaline is still buzzing me from head to toe, and I no longer feel drunk. But now the despair is overwhelming the fuck out of the anger, and I just need to sit down.

Breathe. Relax.

You’re here… You’re fine.

Guty brings me to a quiet end of the hall where I rip myself away from him and start pacing, yanking my hair in my fists.

He watches me with worried eyes. “You good?”

“No. No, I’m not fucking good,” I hiss, shaking my head.

“What’s your problem with that dude, anyway?” he asks carefully.

“He’s a fucking prick!” I growl.

“Why?? What even happened—”

“He stole my girlfriend in high school, and now he’s stealing my—” My voice cuts out quick, and I blink at Guty, who’s staring at me like I’m nuts. Shifting my tone, I mutter, “He was practically molesting my fucking stepbrother. Forgive me for trying to defend him…”

You sound like such a whacko.

Guty’s head tilts. “I don’t know, bro… It looked like Avi was enjoying himself.”

“What do you know about what he fucking enjoys…” I scrub my face with my palms.

I’m fully aware that I’m making myself look bat-shit crazy right now, but I can help it. I can’t stop picturing Ash’s mouth touching Avi’s and it’s driving me fucking mental.

Guty is quiet for a while until eventually he clears his throat. “Alright, kid. I’m hearing you. I just don’t want you to do something stupid that could fuck us all over.”

I nod fast, leaning up against the wall with a crash. “I get it. I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be. Nothing happened.” He squeezes my shoulder. “I’m gonna go make sure everyone’s chill… No one’s calling campus security or any dumb shit.”

I nod again, rubbing my eyes while he clomps up the hall. I hear him mumbling to someone, and my eyes shoot open to see who’s coming, desperately wanting it to be…

“Oh. Hey…” I sigh as Frankie pads over to me, barefoot and carrying her shoes.

“Don’t look so excited to see me,” she mumbles in amusement.

“Sorry, I just…”

I wanted it to be him.

“Avi wanted to come talk to you, but I told him to give you space.” She leans up against the wall by my side. “Kyran, I totally understand why you’re freaking out. Trust me, I do. But this shit is giving him whiplash.”

Peeking at her, I swallow down a hard lump of emotion. “And you think it’s not the same for me?? I have no fucking clue what I’m doing anymore…”

“I get it,” she says softly. “It’s scary… coming to terms with stuff.”

My stomach flops aggressively. “You’re not talking about OnlyFans, are you…?”

She chuckles. “No. I’m not.”

Letting out a ragged sighs, I scrape a hand over my face and whisper, “He’s my stepbrother, Frankie…”

“So?” She scoffs. “He’s not your actual brother.”

I chew on my lip. “But I’m not… I mean, I didn’t think I was…”

“But you are,” she breathes.

Her tone is firm, and calming. Supportive. Like she’s stating a fact.

And maybe it’s okay. Maybe it’s not the end of the world… to want him.

To want more from him.

“Stop running from it, Ky.” She nudges me.

Slanting my chin down, I give her a grateful nod. It feels good to have just one person in the whole world who knows about this.

But then she still doesn’t even know the half of it.

Frankie straightens with a breath, turning to leave.

“Thanks…” I mumble, and she smiles.

“I’m rooting for you.” She winks at me.

I roll my eyes, and she laughs, wandering away while I breathe out slowly.

But she stops one last time and says, “Oh, and I’m bringing Avi to stay at my place. Just thought you’d wanna know…”

“Whose idea was that?” I blink at her.

“His.” She shows me a knowing look. “He doesn’t want anyone else, Kyran. You’d have to be a real moron not to see that.”

Frankie leaves, and I stay by myself in the hallway for a while, listening to the sounds of the party winding down, people trickling out. Sitting on the floor, I stare at my palm, tracing lines of highways that would bring me back to the drive-in.

I want to go back to that night, when we were happy, just the two of us.

No filming, no fighting, no fans.

Just me and him… Together in an abandoned place. Like his rickety old amusement park.

Grinning, I close my palm, admitting defeat. My actions just now were an impulse straight from the heart. No matter how confusing, this can only mean one thing, and maybe Frankie’s right.

Maybe I just need to stop running.

Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I type out a text with shaky fingers.

Me: You’re right… I never really hated you, baby.

Because I think I love you.


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