Don't Ever Give Up Ch. 01bySpotInTheSand©
Note: Special thanks go out to my two regular editors, LilTexasSexFiend and AnInsatiableReader, for making this infinitely better than it was when I first wrote it. Also, I owe a great deal of gratitude to Romantic1, who took time away from writing to read over this and help me clean up the aviation-specific portions of the story. Of course, his sex scenes are legendary on Literotica, and I'd have been crazy not to ask for suggestions on those portions as well.
As always, let me know what you think, through voting, comments or private feedback. All three works too! ;-) As I said, this story will go up with one chapter posting daily until it's all uploaded, so don't get too mad about the cliffhangers. Enjoy!
THREE YEARS LATER
Of all the things Tim Fetters had done in his life, nothing made him feel more powerful than this.
"Left heading one-four-zero, and down to three thousand, Mile High Eleven-Zero-One," Tim spoke into his headset. He punched a couple of buttons to the right of the Boeing 757's control yoke, and moments later, the plane began a shallow banking turn to the left. Tim smiled - knowing he could control this plane, make it do whatever he wanted to... it was truly one of the best feelings he'd ever had.
Tim glanced at a checklist hanging on the side of the cockpit to his left. Temporarily satisfied, he turned to his co-pilot's seat - where a muscular black man, dressed in sagging denim jeans and a blood red North Carolina State football jersey, sat staring at him.
"Yo, Doc," Carlos McDonald said. "Just don't crash us into the airport, OK?"
Tim cracked another smile. "I'll do my best, Carlos. Now, back to you for a minute. What's going on with you and fumbling the ball all the time?"
"You the brain doctor, man," Carlos fired back. "You tell me."
Tim sighed and made a "tsk tsk" noise.
"Carlos, for one, I'm not a 'brain doctor,'" Tim replied, taking his hands off the yoke long enough to make double quotations with his fingers before quickly replacing his hands. "They're called neurosurgeons, and they make a hell of a lot more money than I do. I'm a sports psychologist, and I can only work off of what you tell me. So, why do you think you keep fumbling the ball?"
Carlos squirmed in the seat - and since it was covered in leather and probably more comfortable than it should have been given its purpose, it had to be because he was personally uncomfortable about something.
"I dunno, Doc," Carlos replied. He took a few more seconds before continuing. "I ain't never had this problem before. In high school, I coughed it up once my whole career, because one of them cheerleaders flashed me on the sidelines."
"That's not a very team-oriented thing to do," Tim replied.
"Bitch cheered for the other team," Carlos said, waving him off.
"Ah," Tim said, smiling. "Then I stand corrected."
"Yeah," Carlos replied. "It was aight, though. I scored three more touchdowns, we won the game by 20, and I fucked her and two of her friends in the locker room after. But that ain't the point, Doc."
Tim just grinned. From what he'd seen of Carlos, there was no reason to doubt his story. "Ok, so the point is?"
"I can't hang on to the fucking ball, Doc!"
"Ah, yes. One minute, Carlos." Tim gripped his headset again, carefully listening to the instructions given to him by air traffic control. "Roger, zero-eight-zero to intercept the localizer. Tower on one-one-niner-point-three. See ya." Tim punched a few more buttons and the plane tilted to the left again. He made quick work of contacting the tower at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, entered the traffic pattern, then motioned for Carlos to continue.
"My first two years here at the State, I fumbled the ball twice. Once 'cause that dumb shit Drexler" - Carlos waved behind him at the football players spread throughout the rest of the plane - "forgot we was on the same team and decided to tackle my black ass. The other was 'cause that badass linebacker at V-Tech last year, the one the Rams took with the eighth pick last spring, ran my ass over like a fucking Mack truck squashing a ladybug."
Tim smiled. He remembered that play - Carlos had spent a good 20 minutes afterward on the sidelines talking about the price of tea in India. The hit had given him a concussion, but he'd talked the real team doctor, Ted Prince, into letting him back into the game against Tim's wishes. Concussion or not, Carlos ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown, surviving a hit more vicious than the first one without giving up the ball.
That just made these past few weeks more mind-boggling. Carlos - the top running back for N.C. State and one of the premier backs in all of college football - had fumbled the ball five times during the past three games. Only one of them had been really costly, but still, the coaches were concerned.
Tim observed Carlos for a few more moments, trying to pick up on any non-verbal cues he might be giving as to what was going on inside his head. In many ways, Tim thought, Carlos was the stereotypical black athlete - dreadlocks, enough gold in his teeth to start a pawnshop, Ebonics as his first language, spent more time in bed than your average pillow. But underneath this particular black athlete exterior lay an accounting major with a 3.9 GPA, one who would leave Raleigh after his junior year for the NFL just 12 credits short of a Bachelor's degree. And to his credit, Carlos wasn't one who accepted failure or laughed it off like a lot of his teammates did.
"Why do you think this is a mental thing, Carlos? Why come talk to me and not your running backs coach?"
"I done told you, Doc," Carlos said, getting more and more agitated. "I don't fumble the football. You know Pat Kersee back there?"
"The 350-pound right tackle? Yeah. So what?" Tim replied.
"And you know Tia Lopez? Our head cheerleader?" Carlos continued.
Tim nodded as he said, "Yes, Carlos. Where are you going with this?"
"Pat and Tia will get they freak on under the statue of Jimmy V outside the RBC Center before I fumble the ball twice in a game. I do not give the ball away. But five times the past three weeks, I have. It ain't a physical thing."
"And you're willing to incur the wrath of your teammates by talking to the team shrink?"
"Doc, if it would fix the problem, I'd go talk to Dr. Ruth," Carlos said. "That old bitch still alive, anyway?"
"I have no idea, Carlos," Tim said, trying not to laugh. "I'll tell you what, though. I'll come by practice tomorrow afternoon and sit down with you for a few minutes. We'll see what's wrong."
"Aight, dawg," Carlos said, using Tim's personal favorite nickname for himself. Every guy on the team with pigmentation in his skin called him that for some reason. "'Preciate it."
"No problem," Tim said. "Now get back to your seat and send my co-pilot back up here. We're about five minutes out from landing."
"I got you," Carlos said, and when he and Tim locked hands in a modified handshake/fist bump/whatever the hell it was college kids did these days, Tim noticed the running back cringe as if Tim had punched him in the kidneys. The look was gone almost as quickly as it arrived.
With Carlos gone, Tim turned around and looked back out the window. Raleigh, North Carolina, was a damn beautiful town from 3,000 feet - almost any town was, really. Maybe there were some small towns in Wyoming and Oklahoma that looked shitty when flying over them, but Tim had yet to go there.
Tim pressed his headset closer to his ears, listened for a second, then nodded.
"Raleigh Tower, Mile High Eleven-Zero-One is on the approach." Tim nodded and punched a few more buttons. A few seconds later, the plane turned until it was perfectly aligned with runway 5L at Raleigh-Durham International.
"Ah," J.T. Lancaster said, closing the cockpit door and taking his seat in the chair Carlos had been using. "Already got her lined up, I see."
"Yeah, it was fun listening to Carlos talk about his ball-handling problems while getting instructions from ATC."
"I would have thought Carlos had a deep pool of North Carolina State's finest coeds to handle those problems for him," J.T. quipped. "And yet, he goes to you. Something you're not telling me?"
Tim just laughed. Chris Rock wouldn't have had a comeback for that - neither did Tim.
"You teach that boy to fly yet?" J.T. asked.
"Nah," Tim said. "He's too busy crunching numbers in class and telling me about the foursome he had in high school."
"See, I need to be up here for these chats," J.T. said, laughing. "Speaking of that..."
"Now you and I are going to talk about foursomes?" Tim replied.
"Not so much the foursome, no," J.T. replied. "Though, if I get Sheila drunk enough, that could probably be arranged. What's going on with you and Julia?"
"J.T., whatever do you mean?" Tim asked, sarcasm dripping off his tongue and soaking the cockpit.
"I just-" he stopped, because the controller was speaking in the headset again. Tim nodded.
"Roger, copy the winds, cleared to land, runway five-left, eleven-zero-one."
Tim didn't have to do anything this time because the plane was already on track to land.
"I'm not talking about it," Tim said, putting up a hand to stop his best friend from asking any further questions. "And you know I'm not talking about it. So, what do you say you save your oxygen for the long hike we get to make across the airport in a minute?"
J.T. knew better than to continue, so he didn't.
Two minutes later, the plane touched down flawlessly on the runway. Five minutes after that, Tim and J.T. shut the engines down on the powerful jet as the team deplaned at the gate.
Tim managed to get out of the cockpit before Ted Prince, the football team's head physician, could leave.
"Ted, you got a minute?"
"Sure, Timmy," the 60-something doctor replied. His thick deep-southern drawl made it sound more like 'Shoo, Teemee.' "Whaddya got?"
The two walked down the jetway and emerged in the terminal at Raleigh-Durham. They were surrounded by players as they walked, so Tim kept his voice low.
"Would it be possible for someone to have a broken forearm or wrist and not know it?"
Ted just stared back at Tim.
"Carlos McDonald," Tim said, as a way of explaining it. "He's been having problems hanging onto the ball lately. He was up in the cockpit talking with me about it, but honestly, Ted, there's nothing mentally wrong with Carlos."
"Sometimes a player jes' fumbles the football, mah boy," Ted said. Tim just gave him a look.
"Come on, Ted," Tim replied. "You know Carlos. Two years here, he fumbled it twice, both times because of damn good hits. Lately, you breathe on the guy's right side, and the football hits the turf. Thing is, I slapped hands with him today when he left the cockpit, and he cringed when our hands touched. Is it possible that maybe he's got an injury to his right forearm or wrist, something he doesn't think is that serious, but is causing him huge amounts of pain when contacted?"
Ted chewed on that for a minute. "I dunno," Ted said. "I imagine he'd know it was broke. But hell, maybe it's just a fracture and he don't know it. We'll get 'em X-rayed today, see if yer right."
"Ted, I appreciate this," Tim replied, but Ted just stood there looking at him.
"You know, kid," Ted said, "Yer a damn boy wonder."
"Now, don't start that 'sir' bull sheet with me," Ted answered. "How old are you, Teemee?"
"I'm 31, sir," he replied.
"Thirty-one years old.. yer a fully licensed psychologist workin' with jes' about every damn athlete in the state of North Carolina. You got you a commercial pilot's license, and you fly everybody around in 757s and them fancy Learjets. You flew real planes over in the Middle East for five years in the Marines and got you a Navy Cross out of the deal."
It was two Navy Crosses, actually, but Tim wasn't going to correct him. He just stood there, listening.
"Mah boy, you still have more than half yer life left," Ted said, clapping Tim on the shoulder. "Just amazing how much you've already accomplished."
Ted and Tim shared a laugh, and Tim watched as Ted took a few steps toward the baggage claim area with the football team. Before he turned the corner, though, the doctor turned around and regarded him sadly.
"But son, you ain't got you a damn thing if you ain't got you no woman to go home to."
They shared a look before Ted finally headed off around the corner, and Tim just shook his head and sighed.
"Everybody is fucking Dr. Phil these days," he muttered to himself. Tim didn't realize that during his conversation with the doctor, J.T. had emerged from the jetway and was standing right behind him.
"Well, I'm part of everybody, and I am certainly not fucking Dr. Phil, these days or any other days," J.T. said. Tim couldn't help but laugh.
"Damn," Tim replied. "And here I thought Sheila was just a way overdone cover story."
J.T. ignored him. "It seems like everybody thinks they know what's best for you, I know," he said, putting a hand on Tim's shoulder. "We're just trying to be here for you, man."
Tim let that hang in the air for a minute. Tim would have taken a bullet for J.T., and J.T. had very nearly done just that for Tim a few years back. They were as tight as two friends could be, but this was about as emotional as either of them ever got around the other. J.T. removed his hand and motioned at the two roller suitcases he'd wheeled off the plane. Tim took his, and they walked through the mostly empty terminal in silence for a few minutes. Both of them knew that if either of them were going to break it, it'd be J.T., and sure enough, a few minutes later, he did.
"I mean, seriously, man," he said. "For reasons passing understanding, everybody likes you. Ted Prince, Carlos McDonald, Coach Taylor. Hell, even Sheila likes your ass. I can't understand why, since she has the perfect male specimen already, but it's something I've learned to deal with."
Tim was smiling widely now. J.T. was sometimes too involved in Tim's personal life, most of the time he was overbearing, and he indeed always thought he knew what was best for Tim. But J.T. could make a paraplegic mime laugh, and more importantly, he'd been the only person to really stick with him throughout that year-long dark spell he'd gone through a while back. For the rest of his life, Tim would let J.T. ramble on whenever he wanted - he owed him that much.
"I just don't understand why it's so hard for you to comprehend that a lot of people want to see you happy, man."
"It's not hard to comprehend," he said. "I just don't understand why everyone thinks I'm not happy."
"Dude, have you seen you lately?" J.T. asked.
"About an hour ago in the bathroom on the plane," Tim said. "And I still look as damn good as ever, if I can be so modest."
"Not what I mean, and you know it."
"J.T., I have two awesome jobs that anyone in either field would happily kill me for," Tim said. "I built my dream house on the lake two years ago. My bank account is swimming in more zeros than my accountant knows what to do with. I travel the country and chat up some of the best athletes in the world - for a living. What, exactly, do you think I have to bitch about?"
J.T. just stared back at him.
"Don't play stupid," J.T. said.
"I'm not playing stupid," Tim said. "So, I don't have a girlfriend, or a wife, or a family outside of my parents and my sister. I would not trade my life for anyone else's."
"What about -" J.T. started, but Tim cut him off.
"Not even Hugh Hefner's life 50 years ago," he finished for his best friend.
"All right, all right," J.T. said. "I'll drop it."
"For now," Tim again finished.
"You know me too well," J.T. said. "And besides, you only have that house and one of those two awesome jobs because of me."
"True," Tim said. "You and your family have been very, very good to me, J.T. I tell you everyday that if there's anything you ever need, all you have to do is ask."
J.T. simply nodded. They stopped by the airline operations office, where it took all of two minutes to finish the necessary paperwork, then made their way down into the baggage claim area, where most of the football team and coaching staff was huddled around the carousel. J.T. had bags to collect, but Tim always traveled light. They said their goodbyes, and Tim headed out into the parking garage.
Just as he crossed the street in front of the terminal, his cell phone rang. The song was "Crash Into Me" by Dave Matthews Band, which meant it could only be one person. Before he realized it, a smile flashed across his face. He forced it away before answering the phone.
"Hey, Tim. It's Julia."
"Hey," he replied.
"That's all I get? Hey?" she asked. "You've been in Boston since Thursday, you're finally back on Sunday afternoon, and all I get is a 'Hey?'"
Tim could tell she was kidding from the giggles she mixed in with the words. Still, he played along.
"Umm... hey. How are you?" His voice was still mostly flat, but that was all part of the joke.
"Better," she replied. "Where are you?"
"Just leaving the airport now," he said. "We landed about 15 minutes ago."
"Hey, I get off in 20 minutes." She just let it hang there. Both of them knew what usually came next. Tim decided to try and change the subject.
"Oh, I think it will take you a bit longer than that," he quipped.
Julia laughed. From the sounds of things, it was loud enough to make anyone else still in the Southwest Airlines offices at Raleigh-Durham on a Sunday afternoon wonder what was going on.
"Shut up," she said when she finally settled down long enough to answer. "Besides, that's your fault. If you wanted, it would only take 3 or 4 minutes."
"Yeah, but there's absolutely zero fun in that."
Tim hoped that would send her mind off in other directions.
"But that's not what I meant," she continued, and Tim's face tightened up some. "If you want to wait around for a bit..."
Tim really wanted to tell Julia what she wanted to hear. So many times, they'd arrived at this point in the conversation, and he always teetered on the edge of giving in. He did this time, too, but as it always did, the see-saw tilted in his direction. Instead, he said nothing, and eventually, Julia got the hint.
"Or, I'll just drive out and meet you," she said, ending the nervous silence.
"That would be better," he said, and then before he could shut his mouth, the rest slipped out. "That way, your car will be there in case you want to leave."
"You know, Tim, this is beginning to piss me off," she replied. "I'm not going to leave before tomorrow morning, and you damn well know it."
"Well, just in case." It was about as feeble as replies can be, and even as he said it, he mentally dropkicked himself for it. She said nothing, and Tim figured that as long as she was willing, silence was as good a way as any to not dig the hole any deeper.
Neither of them said another word until Tim reached his brand new Mercury Mariner SUV in the parking lot. He threw his suitcase on the rarely used backseat and got behind the wheel.
"Jules, I'm sorry," he said, starting the car and carefully navigating his way through the maze out of the airport car park. "Just meet me when you get off work, ok?"
"You know, I don't have to come out there if you don't want me to," she replied. She always did. This happened pretty much every time Tim got back into town after a trip with one of the teams he worked for.
"Julia, you know I do."
"Are you sure?"
"Ok, then," she replied. It sounded like she was exhaling a breath she'd taken a couple hours ago. "I'll see you soon."
They said their goodbyes, and Tim dropped the phone onto his passenger seat.