Detective Brody 2

8 – Dreaming Awake –

An excited, roaring crowd reached it's fever pitch as Brody raced across the field. Right now, there was nothing that could stop him. Not the wind, not his aching muscles, and certainly not the large senior boys from Xavier Brooks High School.

In a flash, he noticed a new pattern emerge in the Lawley players. Their movements higher up on the field became less erratic, more organized. Though their steps and paths seemed random, Brody could see the choreography behind it.

Well two could play at that game. In the mess of bodies, he caught Kash's eye. His captain understood immediately, co-ordinating a few other players on his side of the field.

Just as the Lawley team rushed him, Brody tossed the ball as far as he could. Zay deftly caught it and sped away as the Lawley boys piled on top of Brody.

How this was fun, Brody didn't know.

They were winning, but every muscle in his body ached. His mind could barely release any tension even as he continued to splash water on himself in the bathroom. These sort of things usually helped calm him down, but this was a new level. This was his first ever game as a varsity player. XB were out for blood, doing whatever it took to win.

He had no idea it would be this bad. Joining the rugby team had been a mere whim, spurred by his new friend Tate's interest in the sport. Once he'd made it on, his mother had made such a big deal of it that he'd stayed on.

In the end, it turned out Brody wasn't any good at much else. Even if he did hate the only thing he was good at, it at least made his mother happy. Even now, when she was off on a short week's stay at the wellness centre. Otherwise she'd drag Riven to watch him play and be his number one fan.

It was frustrating. He'd made the team and worked hard to get on to varsity to keep her happy, but she still found it necessary to go back to that sterilized place where the staff treated them all with kid gloves.

At first, Brody used to try and explain his annoyance about rugby to Tate, but his friend didn't seem to get it. Eventually he found it more convenient to keep his worries to himself. The other day Tate had told him that he used to worry about Brody being scared of the bigger players, but now he was proud of him for 'getting over it'. How could he ever bring up how much he hated this game again after that?

There was always his dad, but he was working hard on his new show so he could stay in Virginia permanently. It had only been picked up for ten episodes so far, so there was still a good chance that he would have to move back to California. Or New York. Brody wasn't totally sure.

As he walked outside, he considered dropping all of this and heading home to check on Riven. She was probably snuggled into the sofa by now, all by herself. Their parents didn't believe in temporary sitters, and the au pair was long gone. Their mother was supposed to have an eye on her, but her sudden trip away made that impossible. Though Riven never seemed to show it, he bet she was lonely.

As he considered at least calling her, he stumbled into an empty confections stand, knocking over a pile of packed nuts. Everybody was still out in their seats waiting out half time, but he'd expect the vendor to at least continue manning it. Nobody was around, so he could have left everything In disarray.

Which meant getting back to the locker room immediately.

"Hello?" a casual baritone asked, peering over the side of the stand. Brody was squatting, picking up all of the packets he'd dropped. All he could see from his low vantage point was a black man behind a pair of thick green rimmed glasses. "Are you open?"

"No, this isn't my stand, I just dropped some stuff," Brody explained as he extended to full height, nervously pulling at his extremely short rugby shorts.

The first thing he picked up on was the man's beard. It seemed unkempt, but he could tell that the edges and curves were professional. This was the sort of guy who went to a lot of effort to pretend to be cool. One of those hipsters who worked in computers, he bet.

Of course, that didn't mean he wasn't cute.

"That's quite the outfit," the man commented casually, reaching down for a pack Brody had missed. Brody set the packets onto the stand and pulled his shorts down again. They were made of a sleek fabric that always found itself riding up. "What are you supposed to be?"

"A cheerleader," Brody said casually, smiling at the thought of being anything aside from a rugby player. Even if he was deathly afraid of heights. "Just kidding, I'm playing right now."

"I know, I saw you out there," the man said. "You're really good."

"I'm Alan, by the way. Alan Thornton."

"Thanks," Brody said. "I just wish I was that good at anything else."

He felt brave, but couldn't tell why. Was it because there was nobody else here, or was it just the debilitating effect of a purposefully messy-cute older guy? In the end, he didn't really care.

It was out there, and it felt freeing.

"I'm sure you're good at lots of other things," Alan said before he suddenly winced at his own words. "I didn't mean anything by that, you know. My mouth is just so much faster than my brain, and you look much better when you aren't frowning. I just wanted you to stop."

"I wasn't frowning," Brody insisted, but Alan didn't look convinced.

"You don't have to do things you don't want to, you know," he said quietly. "I never did, and I'm still here."

That was the first time in Brody's life he'd ever heard anybody say something like that. Aside from his father, of course, but his father was his father. His advice was muddled in relevance somewhere in between his mother's many flights of fancy and his grandfather's rigid rules.

The words of this stranger he'd just met, who knew nothing about him, seemed to mean a lot. In that single moment they broke a glass cage he'd trapped himself in for what felt like a hundred years.

"Give me your phone," Alan said suddenly. Brody sighed, of course he wasn't what he seemed to be.

"Is this a robbery?" he asked. Alan chuckled and shook his head no before handing Brody his own slickly designed smartphone. It was the newest model; same as Brody's, except it was a shiny green-tinted gray colour instead of a dark woody brown.

"Put your number in," Alan instructed. Brody gave him a long, hard look before deciding to throw caution to the wind and give an adult man his phone number.

"I was going to say that if you wanted to talk, you should call me," Alan said. "But I guess now I'll just have to call you."

And that was how it all started.

It was hard to describe exactly how the next few months went, because with hindsight Brody could see two versions of it.

They both started the same way. Right after the game, Alan called Brody and asked if he wanted to meet to grab something to eat. For the first time, Brody made up an excuse to the whole rugby team, including Tate, and went out with Alan.

Alan was sweet, Alan was kind, Alan was cute, but most of all, Alan had lived. He was only 23, out of college for less than a year, but he'd already gotten a job working at a data analysis company that specialized in 'high-concept election strategies'.

Brody had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like the key of life coming out of Alan's mouth. His hypnotic baritone could make a social networks terms of service sound like the most romantic story ever told, and the way he held Brody in his eyes made him feel way more special than the shouts and cheers he'd ever felt during a rugby game.

It was the first time Brody had felt his worth off of the rugby field, and it seemed obvious that he and Alan were meant to be together.

Even if he had only turned sixteen two weeks before they met.

They talked almost every single day, and Brody started to skip parties and late practices to hang out with Alan. He had a large studio apartment on the other side of town that quickly became Brody's second home.

Though Alan was smart and well put together in most of his life, his domestic game was way off. Whilst they hung out and talked, Brody would clean up and cook meals. He felt guilty racking up a TaskBunny bill for babysitters and maids when he should have been doing these things for his own home and his little sister, but back then there wasn't a storm in the world that could keep him away from Alan.

Sometimes as he cleaned, Alan would come up and hug Brody from behind. He would continue talking about whatever; usually work or some funny story about his travels all over Europe, but Brody would freeze. In those moments he felt as if he would melt into a puddle if he even tried to speak. In those first few weeks, that was the only form of intimacy they had. No matter how close they got, they were both aware of the laws they were skirting. They never spoke about it, but they were both aware of them.

That started to change once school let out and it was summer. By then, Brody's mother had finally checked out of the wellness centre and was spending more time with Riven as she worked the summer party circuit. Aside from his commitments at Fox Hall and with the rugby team, Brody was free to spend his time however he wished.

Though he relented on a few shopping trips with Tate, who had been covering for him with his mom, Brody spent most of his time over at Alan's.

"So this guy from rugby you hang out with, Tate," Alan said suddenly in the middle of a story about visiting an old castle in Ireland. "I shouldn't be jealous, right?"

"Tate?" Brody said, leaning in closer to Alan. They were both wearing shorts, sitting cross-legged on his beautiful oak floors. Alan's extremely hairy legs were pleasantly ticklish against Brody's, which were freshly shaved. "No way; remember when I told you about sneaking into junior prom? He was so obsessed with Vanessa Carlisle that he barely noticed me the rest of the night."

"That's good," Alan said, pulling Brody closer. Brody ended up turned around, with his head in Alan's chest. "I shouldn't be jealous, really; I have to share you with the rest of the world at some point."

"I'm the one who's hiding you from the world. Don't you get in trouble at work?" he wondered. "I mean, my dad is always at work."

"Early summer is for data collection, so I just need to let the algorithms do their work," Alan explained. Brody felt a sense of pride in Alan's work, especially since Alan had developed the algorithms they used at work himself. "Stuff gets heavy in August, but I promise I'll still make time for you."

"I know you will," Brody said, looking out at the blue sky. "I just feel kind of guilty. You should be out there doing those things you did in Europe, like rock climbing. Making more stories."

"Brody," Alan said seriously, his words rolling off his tongue in a way that sent shivers down Brody's spine. "I know this sounds cheesy, but I feel like all of those adventures I had, all those stories I tell, they were all for you."

"There's nobody else in the world I want to tell them to," he said, getting up on his knees. Brody turned to face him and ended up kneeling in front of him. Though Alan was normally shorter, they were now face to face. "I can't imagine that."

When Alan finally leaned in, Brody felt like he knew what had been coming from the moment his memories started. Every event in his life was leading to this exact event, when Alan smelled of fresh citrus body wash and Brody's own woody cologne wafted up to greet it's arrival. As their lips touched, the whole world felt perfect. As if their love was dictated by the very universe and fate itself.

As they pulled away, Brody was more sure than ever that this was all he would ever need. As long as he had this, he could endure three more years of high school, three more years of rugby. All because he'd always have Alan to turn to.

Then the storm came.