An Unlikely Ally

The first practice of lacrosse season, I had been expecting to drill hard and then probably be benched for the season–like a red shirt in football. In fact, I’d expected every freshman to have the same results. There was one in particular, though, that I wasn’t convinced that was actually a freshman. He barely took his helmet off the entire practice, and he was slightly scrawny, but damn he could move. His footwork was unreal, and it looked like child’s play when he was weaving around defensemen to get to the goal.

Coach kept calling him “Maclean,” as if he hadn’t even glanced at this dude’s first name yet. “Do it again, Maclean,” he called for the fifth time. He barely looked winded as he charged at the defenders again with two other attackers on the wings. This time when he closed in, one of the defenders fell off his man to double team. Maclean backed off in two quick steps and slowed down, wrapping around the fan until the defender fell back to his man. The second the D-man was back in position, Maclean charged. He was in the fan and firing on goal before anyone had a chance to blink.

“Damn,” Ryan said from beside me. He was staring out at the action on the field, obviously itching as much as I was to take our turn in this drill. “He’s fast.”

I nodded, watching the freshman jog away like he didn’t just smoke a senior d-man. “If he doesn’t start, it would only be because he’s a freshman,” I mentioned as Maclean made his way to the water table where he yanked his helmet off to chug the entire bottle. He was definitely blond, but his hair was dark from sweat; somehow, he looked incredibly familiar. When he turned around, I swore under my breath. Connor, I remembered. He was the bitchy kid from the cafeteria.

He glanced over the people staring at him, including me, and turned back to the action happening on the field without saying anything. He seemed completely different from the dude I’d encountered at lunch just a couple of hours ago.

“Huh,” Ryan muttered. “What’s up with him? I’ve never seen Connor Maclean so quiet.”

“You know him?” I hissed, though I wasn’t really sure why this seemed weird to me.

My roommate obviously didn’t either, because he frowned in my direction. “Uh, yeah? He was in my English class last semester, and he’s friends with Gabe. I’m surprised you don’t know him; he’s around often enough.”

I guess he didn’t really recall that I wasn’t around often. I hung out at the Frat house that I’d been pledging to for a while–since most of my friends were in the Fraternity already. “Gabe as is that Gabe? The Canadian one?” I asked, motioning to the tall dark-haired midfielder gearing up.

“Yes, who else?” Ryan frowned at me. “Why are you acting weird? Do you have a problem with Connor?”

I thought about it; I guessed I didn’t really. Other than the run in I’d had with him in the cafeteria when I was already in a bad mood, I really didn’t know him. Probably didn’t have a good enough reason to have a real problem with him. “No, I only half-met him. And only once.”

Ryan continued to stare at me in that dissecting way of his. I’ve told him that it’s pretty creepy, but for whatever reason, he still does it from time-to-time. Thank god Coach blew the whistle loudly and told everyone to get in groups according to their position and year. Ryan wandered over toward where the midis were gathering.

Coach organized us so that we were in teams–Junior and Senior attackers on a team with Freshman and Sophomore defense; Freshman and Sophomore attack with Junior and Senior defense, midfield a mixture. Which meant that Ryan was up field, Cruz was working the face-off against a junior, and Connor Maclean was casually standing beside a Sophomore defenseman (the dude paired up with Connor immediately due to the fact that most our defense wouldn’t be able to keep up with the freshman).

Miraculously, Cruz recovered the ball and headed toward the goal. I kept close to my guy, but kept an eye on Maclean, since we would probably have to surround the guy to stop him from getting to the goal. Connor dropped back on the far-left side of the field, drawing his d-man away from Cruz. My own attacker circled back to the 12 as Cruz dropped behind the crease. Cruz was damn good at controlling the pace, even when he d-man was putting pressure on him, Cruz calmly circled around again.

I saw it happening before it actually happened, but it happened so damn fast that I couldn’t process. Ryan, who happened to be on Connor’s team, cut across the 8 looking for a pass. Cruz overlooked it, but Ry set up a beautiful pick on Connor’s d-man give Connor an opening that the freshman took. Ryan’s defender wasn’t expecting the change off, allowing an extra two steps that Connor may not have had. That was all he needed. Cruz fired a gorgeous pass to Connor, Connor quicked it into the bottom left corner. The goalie didn’t stand a chance.

Connor got several ‘good job’s and helmet smacks, but he didn’t gloat. Or, really, do anything other than say thanks and make his way back into position. He was good, and he knew it too–had to. So why the hell was he so subdued?

A couple of days later, I got my answer.

I was at a party that a fraternity and sorority were co-hosting; not the one I was pledging to, but several of the guys were there. It seemed like most people who were worth knowing were there. I was getting a drink from the kitchen of the house and lo-and-behold, there was Connor Maclean. Again. But this time, he wasn’t even paying attention. He was backed up against the counter with a significantly more muscled dude chewing on his neck. Connor actually seemed pretty bored–checking his phone, and obviously not paying attention to the dude’s affection–but he did have a hand in the guy’s hair.

When he stuffed his phone back in his pocket, Connor said snarkily, “You done yet? We were having a conversation.”

“No, we weren’t,” the dude answered, and his voice sounded vaguely familiar. He grabbed Connor by the waist and lifted him onto the counter. My teammate did not seem amused. Even still, he let the vaguely familiar asshole step between his legs and proceed to grab at Connor’s ass.

This was not something I had any particular desire to see; I cleared my throat loudly, making it clear by my expression that I was annoyed.

“Hey, Ben,” the dude commented, and I couldn’t place where I apparently knew him from. Judging from the size of his biceps alone, I was guessing he was on the football team.

I just grunted a half greeting at him and maintained my annoyed stare.

Connor had been watching me impassively since I’d made the noise, now he rolled his eyes. “Are we bothering you, Benjamin?” He asked in the same bitchy tone he’d used when we’d first run into each other.

“As a matter of fact, Maclean, you are,” I retorted, but before I could continue, he jumped in.

“You don’t have to watch, you know? If we’re bothering you, look somewhere else,” he replied, making a show of wrapping his legs around the football dude’s waist. I almost frowned at him, because he’d seemed completely uninterested before, but before I made a comment, the realization hit me.

I snorted, unable to help myself. Did people still actually give a shit about whether or not someone was gay? Actually, that was a dumb question; I knew they did. I just wasn’t one of them. “Don’t give a damn, man,” I replied motioning between them. “But you’re sitting in front of the beer, and I’m thirsty.”

My response seemed to catch him off guard, and after he blinked owlishly at me for two seconds, he started laughing. With a shove at football dude’s shoulder, he jumped off the counter and stepped out of the way. Football dude reattached himself to Connor immediately. Which was weird and kind of annoying–Connor obviously thought so too with the way his lip curled. I glanced first at the football dude then at Connor studying both and their expressions. I had a bad feeling start to churn in my gut. Impulsively, I said, “Ryan and a couple of the guys on the team are here, come join us.”

He looked surprised again. “Uh, sure?”

The football dude made an irritated noise, tightening his thick arms around my teammate. “I thought we were going to get out of here,” he whined, which made me frown and Connor roll his eyes.

“And when exactly did I say that?” Connor answered, stepping away from the much larger man.

The football dude grunted indignantly. “You’re a fucking cock tease, man. The least you could do is suck me off after all that bullshit.”

Connor’s bright eyes narrowed at the sadly mistaken fucker. “Actually, the least that I could do would be walking away without kicking your ass, but you’re pushing it now.”

I snorted at the idea that Connor would try to maim someone probably three times his size, but the asshole just shook his head and muttered something rude before stalking off. My teammate watched him all the way out of the room before he finally turned to me questioningly. “What?” I snipped. I hadn’t really meant for it to come out bristled, but sometimes, my voice took on a defensive edge without my permission.

He maintained eye contact in a searching way. It wasn’t creepy like Ryan’s stare tended to be. It more seemed like Connor was trying to tell if I was about to lie. “You really don’t care?” He asked quietly.

It took me several seconds to recall what he was referring to, as I was more preoccupied with whether that football asshole was going to cause problems tonight. “No? Why would I? It’s not my cock you’re sucking, and my best friends are into it too.”

Connor’s eyes narrowed, but his response was just, “hmm.”

I rolled my eyes at him and started for the doorway out of the kitchen. I couldn’t make him believe me, and I didn’t care to put the energy into it. He would just have to figure it out for himself. “You coming or what?”

Thin shoulders lifted and dropped subtly. “I guess,” he replied, as if this were the last place he wanted to be. It was a charade though, because I could tell he was relieved to have people backing him up.

This is a short scene I wrote several years ago relating to characters that are largely extras in a work-in-progress novel. Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you have any requests for future pieces, let me know!

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